OVERVIEW: Oregon Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Activities

Presented by:
Oregon Humanities
Current Initiative: Centennial Campfires National Partner: The Pulitzer Prizes Local Partner: Colleges and Universities, Libraries, Nonprofits, Other, Public Radio Subject: African American/Black, Cross-Cultural Understanding, Journalism, Latinos, Other, Varies Audience: All, Colleges and Universities, Young Adult

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes, Oregon Humanities created a Pulitzer Centennial edition of their popular Think & Drink program.  In 2016, the council ran a series of Think & Drink events featuring Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists, including Pulitzer finalist Laila Lalami and Pulitzer Prize winners Hector Tobar, Isabel Wilkerson, and Katherine Boo. The series centered on the theme of “Civil Rights and Equality” through a focus on power, place, and belonging, which each speaker addressed in a different way.

OR Quote 1In 2016, more than 1,660 Oregonians attended live Think & Drink events across five different Oregon communities with an additional 1,375 engaging directly with the council and event digitally either through streaming or interacting on social media. The council collaborated with 24 partner organizations to host and promote the event resulting in tens of thousands being exposed to the program through media coverage of the series in six separate Oregon newspapers, statewide radio, and Oregon Humanities articles. The Pulitzer series was particular successful with 95 percent reporting having heard a new idea or fresh perspective by attending.

Think & Drink sparks conversations about ideas. Since 2009, the council has hosted these conversations with writers, civic leaders, activists, and artists in bars, cafes, pubs, and theaters in Portland and around Oregon. Select events have audio and video archives.

Series Highlights:

In February 2016, Pulitzer finalist Laila Lalami sparked conversations about living across national, linguistic, and religious lines in Portland and Bend. In a conversation with Adam Davis, council executive director, she explored writing in the age of Twitter, being Muslim in America, issues of power and land, and civic engagement.

In April 2016, renowned journalist and novelist Hector Tobar discussed writing, Latino identity, immigration, and political organization. Additionally, he gave the audience a “behind-the-scenes” account of his experience writing his most recent book, Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men buried in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle that Set Them Free. Tobar participated in a second Think & Drink in Eugene where he again highlighted his recent book, but also focused more generally on journalism, identity, and the value of a story in an age of information overload.OR Quote 2

In July 2016, Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, brought yet another perspective on migration and displacement and the power of belonging. Speaking to a sold-out crowd, Wilkerson discussed the origins of the mass migration of African Americans from the Jim Crow South to the North and its relevance to the ongoing struggle against racial oppression in America. In a second appearance, and another sold-out presentation, Wilkerson responded to questions about next steps towards healing our country’s racial wounds.

In yet another appearance, Hector Tobar participated in a third Think & Drink event in Ashland, Oregon hosted by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where he spoke onstage with playwright, performer, poet, and journalist Luis Alfaro. Their conversation centered on belonging, migration, the craft of writing, and its role in American society.

The series wrapped up with another sell-out crowd in Portland where Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo spoke about oppression, global poverty, and the role of journalism in combatting social injustice. Boo shared a number of stories from her experience writing her most recent book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, which tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking stories of families striving toward a better life in Mumbai, India.


  • Fort George Brewery, Astoria
  • Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland
  • The Alberta Rose Theater, Portland
  • The Volcanic Theater, Bend
  • Literary Arts, Statewide
  • University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication’s George S. Turnbull Center, Eugene
  • Vibrant Village Foundation, Portland
  • Causa, Portland
  • Latino Network, Portland
  • World Affairs Council, Portland
  • Schoenfeldt Distinguished Writers Series at University of Portland
  • Deschutes Public Library Foundation, Bend
  • Central Oregon Social Justice Center, Bend
  • Astoria Public Library, Astoria
  • Coast Community Radio, Astoria
  • Willamette Week, Portland
  • Self Enhancement Inc., Portland
  • BEAM Village, Portland
  • The Skanner, Portland
  • NAACP of Portland, Portland
  • Urban League of Portland
  • Portland Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.


  • Katherine Boo, Public Service – The Washington Post (2000)
  • Isabel Wilkerson, Feature Writing – The New York Times (1994)
  • Hector Tobar, Spot News Reporting – The Los Angeles Times (1993)


  • Portland, OR
  • Astoria, OR
  • Eugene, OR
  • Bend, OR
  • Ashland, OR

To learn more about the Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires council programs or to view the spotlight page, click the button below.