Korean American author Ilyon Woo wins Pulitzer Prize for biography


Korean American author Ilyon Woo won the 2024 Pulitzer Prize for biography for her book "Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom."

Key points:

  • Columbia University announced the winners of this year's Pulitzers on May 6.

  • Woo’s "Master Slave Husband Wife" tells the true story of a couple's daring escape from slavery.

  • She first came upon the story while at Columbia University, where she completed her PhD in English.

About the author:

  • Woo is a bestselling author for both the "Master Slave Husband Wife" and her previous book, 2010's "The Great Divorce: A Nineteenth-Century Mother’s Extraordinary Fight Against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times."

  • "The Great Divorce" explores the early 19th century struggle of a New York woman fighting for the custody of her children.

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The details:

  • "Master Slave Husband Wife" recounts the true story of Ellen and William Craft, an enslaved couple who escaped slavery in 1848 using disguises. This involved Ellen posing as a wealthy white man with William disguised as her enslaved person.

  • Woo revealed to International Examiner hat her late mentor, Robert Ferguson, inspired her fascination with U.S. history.

  • Woo shared that the book's research unearthed countless "epiphanic lights" across various sources, noting that she’s “still making discoveries” even after the book’s completion.

  • While on her book tour, Woo connected with descendants of the Crafts who are planning a family foundation.

About the prize:

  • The Pulitzer Prizes are prestigious awards honoring excellence in journalism, literature and the arts, as decided by the Pulitzer Prize Board.

  • Recent winners include Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, who shared the 2021 Peace Price, and Japanese scientist Syukuro Manabe, who was awarded the 2021 Prize in Physics.

What's next:

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  • Woo shared that she is committed to sharing the Crafts' story through various mediums, including a potential digital project.

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