Winners of the National Writing Contest, Celebrating Black Writers - National Council of Teachers of English

Congratulations to the Winners of the National Writing Contest,
Celebrating Black Writers: Voices Calling for Activism and Social Justice 


Helen Peirce

Champaign, Ill. — The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has announced the winners of its national writing contest, Celebrating Black Writers: Voices Calling for Activism and Social Justice. 

Earlier this year, NCTE, in partnership with The Center for Black Literature (CBL) at Medgar Evers College and the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, invited high school and college students of all ages to participate in the writing contest. Submissions in the genres of fiction, prose and essay were welcomed. 

The contest received nearly 150 entries from 28 states, Canada, and the British Virgin Islands. There were 94 submissions at the high school level, and 48 submissions from students in higher education. 

NCTE is thrilled to announce the winners of the competition and extends warm and hearty congratulations to each of the winners! 

Higher Education 

First Place and the winner of a $4,000 prize: 

William Lohier, for “Emigration Imaginaries: Sci-Fi and 19th Century Black Emigrationist Texts,” Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 

William Lohier is a senior at Harvard College concentrating in African and African American Studies and English. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, he is a fiction writer, poet and avid reader of Black speculative fiction from across the diaspora. 

Second Place and winner of a $2,000 prize: 

Marian Jones, for “South Shade: An Astral-Activist Romance” Sacramento City College, Sacramento, California 

Marian Jones was born in Sacramento, California, to Annie Jones and Reverend Asbury Jones, Sr. Her father, who has passed, was a Baptist minister. Her mother is a church choir director and pianist. Marian has one older brother, and two older sisters, the eldest of whom passed just last year.  

Marian started reading and writing poetry when she was in grade school and has been an avid, lifelong reader, gravitating mainly to poetry, fantasy, and science fiction. She also enjoys singing and making jewelry. Marian lives with her partner Sam in Davis, California. 

High School 

First Place and the winner of a $3,000 prize: 

Elijah Elvin, for “Negro or Oro?” Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

Elijah Elvin is from Brooklyn, NY. He is a freshman at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. His plans on majoring in political science, but he is also interested in philosophy, law, and creative writing. His career goals include becoming a lawyer, author, and philanthropist. He would like to help people overcome legal and socioeconomic problems they face, while also spreading positivity and inspiration to the world through works of literature.

Second Place and the winner of a $1,500 prize: 

Rebecca Beaver, for “Dark Minds, Dark Bodies” Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut

Rebecca Beecher Beaver is currently a freshman at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. She is a prospective biology major and is currently on the pre-health track. On campus, she is involved in Christian Fellowship, the Wesleyan chapter of the American Medical Student’s Association, and the varsity track team. She loves creative writing, especially writing poetry. In her free time, she enjoys reading, running, and spending time with friends and family.

The writing contest celebrates the Center for Black Literature’s 20th Anniversary Jubilee: Honoring Our Legacy and Celebrating the Black Literary Arts, and the National Council of Teachers of English’s annual National Day on Writing®. 

Our nation faces many challenges: voter suppression, racism, social injustice and inequality, and a public health pandemic. Black writers in this country have a long history of overcoming obstacles and engaging in the struggle for the freedom to live as citizens whose civil and human rights are respected and honored. Through their liberation narratives, poetry, fiction and essays, Black writers have documented their experiences and called for change. The texts of Black poets, novelists, playwrights, screenwriters, historians, activists and civil rights leaders have always sustained us through challenging times. 

All students currently enrolled in secondary/high school or college, including community college, were encouraged to participate by writing and submitting their own essays, prose or fiction. Writings represented various themes raised by Black writers — poets, novelists, literary activists, public intellectuals, civil rights leaders and historians — who have advocated for social justice. 

In celebration of NCTE’s annual National Day on Writing®, join us as acclaimed Journalist Cheryl Wills sits down in discussion with the award winners. The panel will explore the history of writing as a medium for activism and calls for social justice, as well as writing for change in today’s climate. 

Thank you to all the reviewers who contributed to this contest. NCTE extends special thanks to: 

  • Keisha Green 
  • Karen Howard 
  • Jevon Hunter 
  • Staci Perryman-Clark 
  • Michelle Rankins 
  • Donja Thomas 
  • April Warren-Grice 

 About NCTE 

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is devoted to improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education. For more than 100 years, NCTE has worked with its members to offer journals, publications and resources; to further the voice and expertise of educators as advocates for their students at the local and federal levels; and to share lesson ideas, research and teaching strategies through its Annual Convention and other professional learning events.