Lifetime Achievement:
Lerone Bennett, Jr.

Lerone Bennett, Jr., has been a trailblazer in the quest for a more accurate and inclusive interpretation of American history. This makes him controversial in the eyes of a conservative and segregated historical establishment, which often seems to function as a PR firm for the Confederacy. For example, while many of them chastise a new historical standard that provides space for the exploits of Harriett Tubman, no one complains about Gone With the Wind having been used as a Civil War textbook for many decades.

With such milestone works as Before the Mayflower, Black Power U.S.A., and The Shaping of Black America, Lerone Bennett, Jr., has supplied black history to generations of students who couldn't locate it in their textbooks.

At the age of 74, he hasn't slowed down, hurling a thunderbolt at the Old Guard Academy with his Forced into Glory, which shows Abe Lincoln as a man who only emancipated African Americans after they'd done the job themselves. BCF is honored to recognize Lerone Bennett, Jr., with a Lifetime Achievement Award. He is our kind of historian.

-Ishmael Reed

Lifetime Achievement:
Jack Hirschman

Jack Hirschman is an immensely present yet hidden figure in the cultural politics and life of American poetry. Amazingly prolific-on the highest levels of committed artistic and activist involvement-his work is generous, open, and penetratingly critical. His critique is not just sung or hectored in the easy one-d too much political poetry is neutered by; it is of immense depth and profundity. His magnum opus-The Arcanes-is on the same footing as modernist epics like Pound's The Cantos, William Carlos Williams's Paterson, Charles Olson's The Maximus Poems, H.D.'s Trilogy, and Thomas McGrath's Letters To An Imaginary Friend. Hirschman's translations are an extension of his global grasp of political and poetic economy. Over the decades he has translated poets from the Greek, French, Creole, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish languages. A tireless worker for social justice and artistic freedom, it is ironic that Hirschman is highly regarded in Europe as a major American poet and not in his own country. We are honored to give recognition to his work and life, as he honors and challenges our work and lives.

-David Meltzer

 Return to Before Columbus' American Book Awards 2002