OVERVIEW: Virginia Pulitzer Prize Centennial Campfires Activities

Presented by:
Virginia Humanities
Current Initiative: Centennial Campfires National Partner: The Pulitzer Prizes Local Partner: Colleges and Universities, Libraries, Nonprofits Subject: Art/Photography, Cross-Cultural Understanding, History, Journalism, Performing Arts, Poetry, Varies Audience: All, Children and Families

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities ran a two-part program during the Virginia Festival of the Book featuring Prize-winning poets and authors, a special Centennial-edition trio of poetry broadsides produced at the Virginia Arts of the Book Center, eight national-broadcast episodes of the With Good Reason radio program featuring Pulitzer Prize winners, and a special live event in Washington D.C. by BackStory with the American History Guys on the history and impact of the Prizes.


The Virginia Festival of the Book brings readers and writers together for a five-day celebration of books, reading, literacy, and literary culture and in 2016, hosted a free two-part program to celebrate the Pulitzer Prizes’ centennial. The first part entitled, “A Celebration of Pulitzer Authors: Ayad Akhtar, Rick Atkinson & Lawrence Wright,” gathered the three Prize-winning authors who discussed their Pulitzer-winning works as well as their current writing. The second part, “A Celebration of Pulitzer Prize Poets: Rita Dove, Gregory Pardlo & Vijay Seshadri,” brought the three poets together where they read and discussed their works. More than 390 festival attendees went to the two Pulitzer events. A special-edition trio of VABC broadsides featuring poems by Dove, Pardlo, and Seshadri was unveiled at the event and made available for purchase.


Throughout 2016, the With Good Reason radio program aired eight half-hour episodes featuring individual Pulitzer Prize winners in conversation with host Sarah McConnell, each interwoven with sound-rich audio clips. With Good Reason airs on 65 radio stations in 32 states across the country. An estimate 14,800 people have listened to this podcast series online, with thousands more having heard it via the radio. The first episode featured Rick Atkinson, winner of three Pulitzer Prizes for works he has written or contributed to over his long career as a journalist and historian. Other radio programs included:

  • “Pulitzer100: Stories in Science” which featured Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Dan Fagin, whose 2013 book Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation tells the story of how a New Jersey town fought against the pollution – and polluters – killing their children. Fagin also discussed his current project, a book that follows the plight of the monarch butterfly as it tries to survive the very real changes humans have brought to the planet.
  • “Pulitzer100: Shifting the Spotlight” which featured Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, who throughout her accomplished career, has tackled traditionally taboo subjects including homosexuality, race, incest, and abuse. She received the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play How I Learned to Drive. She has also distinguished herself as an exceptional teacher of young playwrights as three of her students have gone on to win Pulitzer Prizes.
  • Additional participants in the With Good Reason Pulitzer100 series included:
    • Caroline Shaw, who became the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013 for her composition Partita for 8 Voices
    • Natasha Trethewey, who won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 2006 collection Native Guard
    • Elizabeth Fenn, author of Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People, which won a 2015 Pulitzer Prize in History
    • Junot Diaz, a 2008 award-winner in fiction
    • Fredrik Logevall, a 2013 award-winner in history


This program featured BackStory’s historian-hosts Ed Ayers, Brian Balogh, and Peter Onuf in discussion with special guests and a live audience to explore the complicated relationship between America’s presidents and the fourth estate. Featured guests included University of Purdue historian Kathryn Brownell and Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig. Also, to celebration the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes, the program examined the related history and impact of the Prizes and their continued relevance today. More than 200 people attended the live event and more than 6,400 have viewed the video.


  • Virginia Center for the Book
  • George Washington University


  • Ayad Akhtar, Drama (2013)
  • Rick Atkinson, National Reporting & History (1982, 2003)
  • Lawrence Wright, General Non-Fiction (2007)
  • Rita Dove, Poetry (1987)
  • Gregory Pardlo, Poetry (2015)
  • Vijay Seshadri, Poetry (2014)
  • Dan Fagin, General Non-Fiction (2014)
  • Paula Vogel, Drama (1998)
  • Caroline Shaw, Music (2013)
  • Natasha Trethewey, Poetry (2007)
  • Elizabeth Fenn, History (2015)
  • Junot Diaz, Fiction (2008)
  • Fredrik Logevall, History (2013)
  • Carol Leonnig, National Reporting – Washington Post (2015)


  • Charlottesville, VA
  • Washington, DC

To view all Pulitzer Prizes Centennial activities and to learn more about council involvement, please click the “Learn More” button at the bottom of the page to be directed to the Pulitzer Prizes spotlight page.