Pickens Prize

The Department of African American Studies awards the William Pickens Prize annually for outstanding senior essays in the field of African and African American Studies.
To read a tribute to the life and activism of William Pickens, Sr click here
To read more about Yale Phi Beta Kappa graduate, William Pickens (‘04), a leading civil rights activist of the early 20th century click here

2024 Pickens Prize Recipient  

Abbie Thomas, a graduating senior, was awarded the 2024 Willam Pickens Prize for their essay  “Performing Power: Trinidad Carnival & The February Revolution”


Annual Pickens Prize Award Winners


Aaron Magloire “It was Lovely Up in the Bottom”: A Dramatic Exploration of Three Minor Characters in Toni Morrison’s Sula


Nicole Jefferson ”Race, Space, and Place: Infrastructural Vulnerability and Cultural Community Organizing in Broadmoor, New Orleans after Katrina”


Anna Milliken “Piercing a Black Feminist Framework:  Quilting in Gee’s Bend, Alabama”
Zyria Rodgers “Jazz”


Jordan Bruner “The Ostracizing of Young Black Athletes”
Imani Butler “Black Dreams Matter:  An Experiment in Educational Possibilities”
Solomon Ghebreyesus “The Whole Haitian Questions:  Paradoxes of African American Responses to the United States Occupation of Haiti, 1910-1934”
Lydia Horan “All I want to do is just survive:  Analyzing Predatory Lending in Boston as a Manifestation of Neoliberal Racial Capitalism”
John McKissick “Don’t Give Away Anything That You Can’t Get Back:  Private Archives and the People That Create Them”
Tyler Miles “We will be unstopable:  Black Queer Care in the City of Brotherly Love”
Devin Moore “Land Acquisition Displacement and Emergecy:  A History of Injustice in Michigan”
Kai Nugent “Talking Black on the Big State:  The Rhetorical Use of African American English by Black Speakers in America”
Branson Rideaux “Young, Colored Me, A Black Studies Thesis on Archival Recovery Through Embodied Performance”
Ry Walker “Undisciplined, How Broken Windows Policing was Insinuated into New York City Public Schools”


Eleanor Pritchett “ ‘Transcendentally Material’: Aaron Douglas and the Visuals of Publishing in the Harlem Renaissance”


Youn Chang “Seat of Empire: Multiracial Student Organizing at Yale Against War & Militarism”


Lauren Chambers “A Different Kind of Dark Energy: Placing Race and Gender in Physics”


Jordan Konell “A Special Solidarity?: Philadelphia’s Black-Jewish Relationship and the 1964 Columbia Avenue Riot”


David Joseph-Gotenier “From Segregation to Re-Segregation: A History of Racial Inequality in the YMCA”


Ethan Mordecai Cargill “The Black Arts Iconography of John Coltrane”
Emily Wanger “An ‘Awkward Silence’ - Examining Civil Rights Organizations’ Belated Opposition to Mass Incarceration in the United States”


Jordan Rogers “Put your House in Order and Plot a Sweet Life:  Home, Movement, Sexuality, and the Black Diasporic Musical Tradition in the South of France”
Christopher Pagliarella “The African Methodist Episcopal and Black Baptist Churches in Literacy Education:  Achievement, Loss and Hope”


Rhiana Gunn-Wright “Breaking the Brood Mare:  Representation, Welfare Policy and Teen Pregnancy in New Haven”


Naomi Bland “Plan B:  The Collision of the Birth Control Movement and the Uplift Movement Viewed Through Works of Angelina Weld Grimké”
Rodney Reynolds “I Know of No Better Way to Express the Struggle of Our People:  King, Hughes, and the Poetics of the Civil Rights Movement”


Rena Karefa-Johnson “The Stolen Girls Locked in the Leesburg Stockade: The Forgotten Price of Freedom”


Andrew Dowe “Time/Space/Self - Movement and Identity in black queer literary imaginations
Maura Fitzgerald Second Line Parades in New Orleans: Revelry and Resistance in the ‘Spaces Between’ ”


Offiong Bassey “Unlikely Candidates: The Authenticating Power of Evangelical Conversion and Call in the Live of Nineteenth-century Itinerant Ministers, Sojourner Truth and arena Lee”
Hallfridur Birnir “Walking Towards Brilliance: The Public Sculptures of David Hammons”
Cynthia So “The Causes and Consequences of Undocumented Haitian Immigration to the Dominican Republic”


Kersten Charity Stevens “The Blues-Hip Hop Dichotomy: Assessing Interstitiality in the Black Noise of the Past and Present”
Bryant Hall “The Power of Hypocrisy: The Politics of Double Morality in Cuba”


Lia Bascomb “Three Voices of Black Iconography: Nina Simone, Bob Marley, and Fela Anikulapo-Kuti”


Julianna Bentes “From Strong Roots: The Impact of World War II on the Civil Rights Movement through Citizenship, Empowerment, and Mobilization”
Erin Liotta “Bill T. Jones and Uncle Tom: Understanding Modern America Through the Politics of Dance”


Nilofar Gardezi “Kaleidoscopic in Memory Now”: Symbolism and Historicity in Robert Hayden’s ‘Angle of Ascent’ ”
Cameron Leader-Picone “Colored People’s Laughter: African American Literature, Jazz, Blues and the Problem of the Color Line”
Sarah Nelson Wright “Adopting Differences: Hybridity, Intersectionality and Transracial Adoption In Contemporary America”


Joshua Jelly-Schapiro “Are We All Creoles Now?”: Ethnicity and (Imagi-)Nation in a Heterogenous Caribbean Diaspora
Melissa Barton “ ‘An Off-Rhyme Occasion’: Race, Politics, and the Artistry of Gwendolyn Brooks’s War Sonnets”
Alan Schoenfield “The Politics of Position in the Teaching of Black Literature and the Future of Multicultural Education”


Eyi Tuakli-Wosornu “Black Skin/White Class: An Exploration of Black Students in New England Preparatory Schools”
Alexandra L. Cox “Reproduction, Apprehension, Production: The Visual Politics of the Crack Baby Scare”


Ayanna M. Johnson “Why Black Women Withdraw Early from Selective Colleges and Universities”
Brian J. Kreiter “Blackaccess.Com: Reevaluating African-American Participation in the Internet Economy”


Rosa Walker “Blackaccess.Com: Reevaluating African-American Participation in the Internet Economy”


Regina Bain “Black Theater: The Altar Line:  An Ideology of Theater Art for the Black Community”
Lorelei Williams “Wallflowers: Black Women in the Television Landscape”


Nicholas Taylor Boggs “Of Mimicry and (Little Man Little) Man:  Towards a queersighted theory of black childhood”