Rion Amilcar Scott, author of Insurrections

New Literary Prize for NC Black Writers

Rion Amilcar Scott, author of Insurrections

The inaugural Jacobs/Jones African-American Literary Prize will honor the best in short prose by African American writers whose primary residence is in North Carolina.

The award, sponsored by the North Carolina Writers Network and administered by the Creative Writing Program at UNC Chapel Hill, honors the nineteenth-century writers and North Carolina natives Harriet Jacobs and Thomas H. Jones.

Entries may be fiction or creative nonfiction, and must be concerned with the lives and experiences of North Carolina African Americans. Entries must not have been published before (including on any website, blog, or social media); must be no more than 3,000 words; and, if an excerpt from a longer work, must be self-contained. All entries will be judged on literary merit.

The winner will receive $1,000 and possible publication in The Carolina Quarterly. The deadline for submissions is January 2, 2019.

The final judge of the inaugural Jacobs/Jones contest will be the acclaimed author Rion Amilcar Scott, whose short-story collection, Insurrections, was awarded the 2017 PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and the 2017 Hillsdale Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. His work has been published in such journals as The Kenyon Review, Crab Orchard Review, and The Rumpus.

Harriet Jacobs was born a slave in 1813 near Edenton. She escaped to Philadelphia in 1842, after hiding for seven years in a crawl space above her grandmother’s ceiling. She published her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, under a pseudonym in 1861. Jacobs died in 1897 and was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 1997.

Thomas H. Jones was born into slavery near Wilmington in 1806. Able to purchase the freedom of his wife and all but one of his children, he followed them north in 1849 by stowing away on a brig to New York. In the northeast and in Canada, he spoke as a preacher and abolitionist, and published his memoir, The Experience of Thomas Jones, in 1854, as a way to raise funds to buy his eldest child’s freedom.

This Jacobs/Jones African-American Literary Prize was initiated by Cedric Brown, a Winston-Salem native and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Though Brown has lived in California the last three decades, he has “deep roots, an abiding love, and a little house in the Tar Heel State,” he said.

“The literary award was borne out of my frustration with being unable to readily find much fiction or creative nonfiction that conveys the rich and varied existence of black North Carolinians,” Brown said. “I wanted to incentivize the development of written works while also encouraging black writers to capture our lives through storytelling.”

The non-profit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers at all stages of development.

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