He was 72. He was the first African American winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, for his second short-story collection, Elbow Room (1977). James Alan McPherson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning story collection “Elbow Room” and a longtime faculty member at the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, has died. He was the first black author to receive the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. His father was an electrician and his mother was a maid. Frank D. McConnell. James Alan McPherson was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1943 and was educated at Morris Brown College, Harvard Law School, and the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. Margaret Manning. “At first the words, without pictures, were a mystery,” he wrote in a memoir, “Going Up to Atlanta.” “But then, suddenly, they all began to march across the page. When James Alan McPherson was a dining-car waiter for the Great Northern Railroad in the 1960s, he would ride the trains out of the south to Chattanooga, along the Mason-Dixon line. His father was the only qualified black master electrician in the state and was continually being denied a license. McPherson came to the University of Iowa as a student in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1969. His essays and short stories appeared in numerous periodicals— including The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, The Atlantic Monthly, Newsday, Ploughshares, The… The reemergence of James Allen McPherson, one of contemporary literature's bright stars, after a series of devastating personal setbacks that kept him from writing, is one of the major literary events of the season.Crabcakes is an astounding, impressionistic examination of the emotional topography of McPherson's life, from his days in Baltimore to his recent years at the e Quite the same Wikipedia. He was 72. As in “Hue and Cry,” Mr. Macauley wrote, the author established his viewpoint as a writer and a black man, but not as a black writer. James Alan McPherson was born on September 16, 1943. Compassionate. From Iowa Now.By Tricia Brown & Cristóbal McKinney. James Alan McPherson was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American short story writer and essayist. McPherson was born on September 16, 1943, in Savannah, Georgia. A perfect leader. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Right now I'm just taking lessons. James Alan McPherson, who overcame segregation and the narrow prism of a legal education to become the first black writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, died on Wednesday in Iowa City. He graduated from Harvard Law School, but decided against a legal career — instead, enrolling in the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he received a master of fine arts degree. Generous beyond words. He was the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and one of the first to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. “Gold Coast” examines the race, class, and age barriers between Robert, a black Harvard student who aspires to be a writer,… Read More James Alan McPherson, an author of widely anthologized short stories and essays that both explored and transcended black experiences in America, and who in … After a while, I could read faster and faster and faster. If he could live with these contradictions, he would be simply a representative American.”, “I believe that if one can experience diversity, touch a variety of its people, laugh at its craziness, distill wisdom from its tragedies, and attempt to synthesize all this inside oneself without going crazy,” Mr. McPherson wrote, “one will have earned the right to call oneself ‘citizen of the United States.’”, James Alan McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Writer, Dies at 72. “As an American, by trying to wear these clothes he would be a synthesis of high and low, black and white, city and country, provincial and universal. He was an African American Essayist. Generous beyond words. When he was eighteen, he got a … Despite his coming of age as a writer during the Black Arts movement, his stories transcend issue-oriented politics. James Alan McPherson Jr. was born in Savannah, Ga., on Sept. 16, 1943. James Alan McPherson Jr. was born in Savannah, Ga., on Sept. 16, 1943. About James Alan McPherson. James Alan McPherson’s “Umbilicus” was one of my favorite essays to teach in 1998, when it was reprinted in that year’s Pushcart Prize anthology. “He was able to look beneath skin color and clichés of attitude into the hearts of his characters,” the reviewer concluded, “a fairly rare ability in American fiction where even the most telling kind of perception seldom seems able to pass an invisible color line.”, Suketu Mehta, whose memoir “Maximum City” was a Pulitzer finalist in 2005 and who was mentored by Mr. McPherson, said that his essays “belong to the humanist tradition of American letters: an anger at the economic and racial injustices of the country, coupled with a constant appreciation for the way community forms out of unlikely alliances, such as between poor Southern blacks and Southern whites.”, In 1981, Mr. McPherson was among the first 21 “exceptionally talented individuals” who received what became known as “genius awards” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in spite of an unusually judgmental letter from his mentor, the novelist Ralph Ellison. After a while, I no longer believed in the world in which I lived.”. His death was announced by the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he was a professor emeritus. James's personal network of family, friends, associates & neighbors include Jasmine Mcpherson, Thomas Mcpherson, Norma Mcpherson, Michael Mcpherson and Jeffrey Mcpherson. Honest and brave. He won the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with his second short-story collection, Elbow Room, and in 1981 he was in the inaugural group of … Although he continued to write essays, articles, and short stories that appeared in journals, he did not write another book until Crabcakes (1998), a personal memoir. James Alan McPherson mocks the Horatio Alger aspect of his background via the young writer-narrator of his first published story, "Gold Coast" (an Atlantic Monthly First in 1968), in a passage where Robert dreams that "there would be capsule biographies of my life on dust jackets of many books, all proclaiming: ?...He knew life on many levels. He launched his literary career with the short story “Gold Coast,” which won a contest in The Atlantic Monthly in 1968, and the following year he became a contributing editor of the magazine. A noble human being. Corrections? At the age of 35, McPherson received a Pulitzer Prize for … December 12, 2018 This year marks the 40th anniversary of James Alan McPherson becoming the first black man to win the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, a monumental achievement, not just personally, but for the culture. Looking for books by James Alan McPherson? Book Editor, The Boston Globe. Their marriage ended in divorce. James Alan McPherson. Short stories reach across decades of racial upheaval and social transformation to reaffirm what remains human and vulnerable in … James Alan McPherson, (born September 16, 1943, Savannah, Georgia, U.S.—died July 27, 2016, Iowa City, Iowa), American author whose realistic, character-driven short stories examine racial tension, the mysteries of love, the pain of isolation, and the contradictions of American life. The classic debut collection from Pulitzer Prize winner James Alan McPherson Hue and Cry is the remarkably mature and agile debut story collection from James Alan McPherson, one of America’s most venerated and most original writers. The American Journey: Building a Nation-California Edition by Joyce Oldham Appleby, Alan Brinkley, James M. McPherson and a great selection of related books, art … In 1968 McPherson published his first volume of short fiction, Hue and Cry. James Alan McPherson explored race and community in his work, becoming the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. James Alan McPherson (1943–2016), a native of Savannah, Georgia, was recently selected for induction into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. The Jury. Also in 1981, he was among the inaugural class of 21 people to receive a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Just better. December, 1978, Atlantic,James Alan McPherson sketched out what may be his philosophy of life. Henry Louis Gates Jr., the literary critic and historian, called Mr. McPherson one of the “literary heirs” of Mr. Ellison, who died in 1994. “What he was proposing in 1896, I think, was that each United States citizen would attempt to approximate the ideals of the nation, be on at least conversant terms with all its diversity, carry the mainstream of the culture inside himself,” Mr. McPherson wrote in The Atlantic in 1978. James Alan McPherson is one of the writers of fiction who form the second major phase of modern writing about the African American experience. James Alan McPherson was an American essayist and short story writer. McPherson taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz (1969–70), Morgan State University (1975–76), and the University of Virginia (1976–81) before taking up a post in 1981 at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. by James Alan McPherson "Half a century ago, Ralph Ellison was excited by the prodigious talent on display in this collection, and it can still galvanize contemporary readers." James Alan McPherson taught as a professor of creative writing at the University of Iowa. His next collection, the award-winning Elbow Room (1977), contained stories—among them “Elbow Room,” “A Loaf of Bread,” and “Widows and Orphans”—that tend to be less bleak than those of the earlier collection and that balance bitterness with hope. McPherson was educated at Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland (1963–64), Morris Brown College, Atlanta (B.A., 1965), Harvard University Law School (LL.B., 1968), and the University of Iowa (M.F.A., 1969). This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/biography/James-Alan-McPherson, New Georgia Encyclopedia -Arts and Culture- Biography of James Alan McPherson. James helped support the family by delivering newspapers. Compassionate. …wild comic techniques resembled Ellison’s; Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. A noble human being. He was also a short-story writer. They gave up their secret meanings, spoke of other worlds, made me know that pain was a part of other peoples’ lives. His mother, the former Mabel Small, worked as a maid. Carlos Baker (Chair) Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature, Emeritus, Princeton University. Still, he would invoke the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and infuse his literature with the principles of diversity propounded by Albion W. Tourgée in his brief in 1896 against segregated railroad cars in Plessy v. Ferguson. J ames Alan McPherson ’68 grew up in poverty in segregated Georgia, and went on to write short fiction and essays that deftly explore race, class and community and what it means to be human. Whether a story dashes the bravado of young street toughs or pierces through the self-deception of a failed preacher, challenges the audacity of a killer or explodes the jealousy of two lovers, James Alan McPherson has created an array of haunting images and memorable characters in an unsurpassed collection of honest, masterful fiction. Updates? James Alan McPherson (1943–2016) was the author of Hue and Cry, Railroad, and Elbow Room, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1978. Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Alan McPherson died July 27, 2016, in a hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, according to multiple news sources. Elbow Room, by James Alan McPherson (Atlantic Monthly Press) Share: Twitter Facebook Email. James Alan McPherson, (born September 16, 1943, Savannah, Georgia, U.S.—died July 27, 2016, Iowa City, Iowa), American author whose realistic, character-driven short stories examine racial tension, the mysteries of love, the pain of isolation, and the contradictions of American life. I had come to find something to read beyond the nineteenth-century British novels of the course I was taking. His father became the first black master electrician in the state, but only after frustrating delays blamed on racial discrimination drove him to alcoholism and gambling debts that resulted in a period in jail. His final book, A Region Not Home: Reflections from Exile (2000), is a collection of essays. “Gold Coast” examines the race, class, and age barriers between Robert, a black Harvard student who aspires to be a writer, and James Sullivan, an older white janitor who seeks companionship. As a young boy growing up in the South, Mr. McPherson was an avid comic book reader until he discovered what he called the colored branch of the Carnegie Public Library in Savannah.