The Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence honors Louisiana’s revered storyteller, Ernest J. Gaines, and serves to inspire and recognize rising African-American fiction writers of excellence at a national level. The book award, initiated by donors of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, is now in its 13th year and has become nationally recognized in its role of enhancing visibility of emerging African-American fiction writers while also expanding the audience for this literature. The annual award of a $15,000 cash prize is to support the writer and help enable her/him to focus on her/his art of writing.
The 2019 panel of judges are themselves renowned contributors to the literary world. They are Anthony Grooms, Edward P. Jones, Elizabeth Nunez, Francine Prose and Patricia Towers.
The Baton Rouge Area Foundation sponsors the winner’s travel to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to receive the prize at a ceremony attended by Ernest Gaines where the author reads an excerpt from the selected work of fiction. A reception follows. The evening is free, open to the public and attracts a diverse audience.
The literary award winner also participates in educational activities at selected area schools and after-school programs in keeping with the Gaines Award's interest in emphasizing the role of literature and arts in education. Through small creative writing workshops with the winning author, students are encouraged to pursue reading, delve into their own creativity, and to consider becoming an author.