Writers awarded for literary works

Published 12:01 am Sunday, February 24, 2008

NATCHEZ — Three writers received awards recognizing their literary achievements as part of the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration Saturday night.

Author and long-time editor of Ebony magazine Lerone Bennett Jr. received the Richard Wright Literary Excellence award.

Bennett is the author of — among other books — “Before the Mayflower: A History of Black American 1619 – 1966” and “What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King Jr.”

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David Sansing presented the award, which Bennett could not accept in person because of a family emergency.

“Bennett’s books are considered American classics,” Sansing said. “While Martin Luther King was leading a movement of one kind, Lerone Bennett was leading a revolution of another kind. There had never been anything like Ebony magazine.”

A brief statement was read on Bennett’s behalf.

“I accept this award with the understanding that I am to go out and make myself worthy of it,” Bennett said. “I pledge to all of you in the continuing struggle that Richard Wright did not struggle and dream in vain.”

Poet Brooks Haxton also received a Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award.

“Richard Wright is a writer I have admired since I was a teenager, and to have my name associated with his work makes me very proud,” Haxton said.

Haxton also read a poem of thanks, which will be featured in his next book.

Playwright and screenwriter Alfred Uhry received the Horton Foote Award for Special Achievement in Screenwriting.

Uhry is the screenwriter of such works as “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Mystic Pizza.”

Natchez native Jennifer Ogden presented Uhry’s award.

“‘Driving Miss Daisy’ set a new standard for what is considered a mainstream Hollywood movie,” Ogden said.

Uhry said he learned a very important lesson from Foote about screenwriting.

“You say as little as you can and you show as much as possible,” Uhry said. “You keep it to a minimum, and so, with that, I thank you.”

The Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration will continue today at the Natchez Convention Center.