The University of Alabama

UA’s Cason Award to Honor Diane McWhorter; Roy Peter Clark to Headline Symposium

Diane McWhorter

Diane McWhorter

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Diane McWhorter, whose searing personal history of the Birmingham civil rights struggle, “Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution,” earned a Pulitzer Prize, will receive the 2003 Clarence Cason Writing Award from the journalism department at The University of Alabama on Thursday, March 20.

The banquet will be followed on March 21 with the department of journalism’s sixth annual Press and Public Symposium. This year’s program, “Tell About Alabama,” will focus on non-fiction and will feature keynote speaker Dr. Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists, future journalists and teachers of journalism in St. Petersburg, Fla. His speech is titled “Power of the Narrative.”

Tickets for the banquet honoring McWhorter at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel are $50 and include dinner. The event will begin with a 6 p.m. reception. McWhorter, whose articles have appeared in some of the nation’s leading newspapers and magazines, will accept the award and speak at the banquet.

Tickets for the March 21 symposium at the Bryant Conference Center are $25 and include lunch. Coffee will be served at 8 a.m. and the program will begin at 8:30 a.m. Three workshops on narrative writing also will be held during the symposium and will be led by experienced journalists.

Symposium participants will include McWhorter; Eugene Patterson, a former editor of both the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the St. Petersburg Times, who recently published a collection of columns and narrative pieces; Wayne Greenhaw, editor and publisher of Alabama magazine and author of “Alabama on My Mind;” and Roy Hoffman, a senior writer for the Mobile Press Register and the New York Times, as well as many national magazines.

The authors will be available to sign autographs before the program begins and books will be for sale.

The journalism department in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at UA established the Cason Award in 1997 to honor exemplary non-fiction over a long career. All of the recipients have had strong connections to the state of Alabama. McWhorter joins a distinguished group of previous Cason Award winners, including two other Pulitzer winners.

McWhorter grew up in Birmingham within a prominent family. These connections gave her special insights into the resistance that many whites mounted against the civil rights struggle. Her book details the collusion that often occurred between members of the city’s industrial and professional elite and the rough men who carried out the bombings and beatings of black activists such as the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.

She spent years researching archives, especially those of local law enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She also conducted hundreds of interviews.

Publication of her book last year ignited a new round of soul-searching over events that once made Birmingham synonymous with bombings and non-violent protest. McWhorter, who lives in New York, has frequently returned to Alabama to speak and be interviewed.

Other Cason winners have been literary journalist Gay Talese, New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines, famed biologist Edward O. Wilson, jazz critic and memoirist Albert Murray and Auburn historian and social critic Wayne Flynt. Raines and Wilson also earned Pulitzers for their work.

To order tickets, call UA’s journalism department at 205/348-7155.

  • $50 for Cason Banquet, Thursday, March 20
  • $25 for Press and Public Symposium “Tell About Alabama,” Friday, March 21
  • $30 for UA faculty/staff to Cason Banquet

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tickets to the banquet for UA faculty and staff are $30. Call 205/348-7155 to reserve your place. To download a registration form, go to www.ccom.ua.edu/cason2003/default.html.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Elizabeth M. Smith, UA Media Relations, 205/348-3782, esmtih@ur.ua.edu
    Dr. Bailey Thomson, journalism professor, 205/348-8617