11 June 2021 • Alums Payne '88 Wins Pulitzer Prize for "The Dead Are Arising"

The epic biography of Malcolm X — coauthored by Tamara Payne ’88 and her father, the late Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Les Payne P’88 — previously won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction.

The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X is the winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. The culmination of more than 30 years of work, the book is a collaboration between the late Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Les Payne P’88 and his daughter and principal researcher, Tamara Payne ’88, who completed and published the biography after Les’s death in 2018.

The Dead are Arising also won the 2020 National Book Award for Non-Fiction and the 2021 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in the category of Biography/Autobiography.

Read a profile of Payne in the Pulteney Street Survey.

Tamara Payne earned her B.A. in English at HWS and at graduation was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award. She went on to a career in teaching and real estate before joining her father as principal researcher on the project that would become The Dead Are Arising.

Les Payne, a former editor at Newsday and a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, began working on the book in 1990. According to the publisher, he embarked on a “quest to interview anyone he could find who had actually known Malcolm X — all living siblings of the Malcolm Little family, classmates, street friends, cellmates, Nation of Islam figures, FBI moles and cops, and political leaders around the world. [Payne’s] goal was ambitious: to transform what would become over a hundred hours of interviews into an unprecedented portrait of Malcolm X, one that would separate fact from fiction.”

After her father’s death in 2018, Tamara continued the project, researching, editing and, finally, authoring the introduction to The Dead Are Arising, which was published in October 2020 to critical acclaim.

As the New York Times review of the book explains, The Dead Are Arising “reconstructs the conditions and key moments of Malcolm’s life, thanks to hundreds of original interviews with his family, friends, colleagues and adversaries. Nobody has written a more poetic account…[Throughout the book] we are exposed to Malcolm’s teachings within the rhythm of Payne’s masterly storytelling.”

Learn more about the book.

Watch Tamara Payne read from The Dead Are Arising.

Read an interview with her in Publishers Weekly.