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Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography

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Pulitzer Prize

Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography

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Pulitzer Prize for History

Winners & Nominees
Barbarian Days: A Surfing LifeWilliam Finnegan, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, Winner, The Light of the World: A MemoirElizabeth Alexander, The Light of the World: A Memoir, Nominee, The Pope and MussoliniDavid Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, Winner, Louis Armstrong: Master of ModernismThomas Brothers, Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism, Nominee, Margaret Fuller: A New American LifeMegan Marshall, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, Winner, Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century LifeJonathan Sperber, Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life, Nominee, Jonathan Swift: His Life and His WorldLeo Damrosch, Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World, Nominee, The Black Count: Glory - Revolution - Betrayal - and the Real Count of Monte CristoTom Reiss, The Black Count: Glory - Revolution - Betrayal - and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, Winner, Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American MasterpieceMichael Gorra, Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece, Nominee, The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P KennedyDavid Nasaw, The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P Kennedy, Nominee, George F Kennan: An American LifeJohn Lewis Gaddis, George F Kennan: An American Life, Winner, Love and CapitalMary Gabriel, Love and Capital, Nominee, Malcolm X: A Life of ReinventionManning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, Nominee

The Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography is one of the seven American Pulitzer Prizes that are annually awarded for Letters, Drama, and Music. It has been presented since 1917 for a distinguished biography or autobiography by an American author or co-authors, published during the preceding calendar year. Thus it is one of the original Pulitzers, for the program was inaugurated in 1917 with seven prizes, four of which were awarded that year.


Finalists have been announced from 1980, ordinarily two others beside the winner.


In its first 97 years to 2013, the Biography Pulitzer was awarded 97 times. Two were given in 1938, none in 1962.


  • 1917: Julia Ward Howe by Laura E. Richards and Maud Howe Elliott, assisted by Florence Howe Hall
  • 1918: Benjamin Franklin, Self-Revealed by William Cabell Bruce
  • 1919: The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams
  • 1920s

  • 1920: The Life of John Marshall, 4 vols. by Albert J. Beveridge
  • 1921: The Americanization of Edward Bok by Edward Bok
  • 1922: A Daughter of the Middle Border by Hamlin Garland
  • 1923: The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page by Burton J. Hendrick
  • 1924: From Immigrant to Inventor by Michael I. Pupin
  • 1925: Barrett Wendell and His Letters by M. A. Dewolfe Howe
  • 1926: The Life of Sir William Osler, 2 vols. by Harvey Cushing
  • 1927: Whitman by Emory Holloway
  • 1928: The American Orchestra and Theodore Thomas by Charles Edward Russell
  • 1929: The Training of an American: The Earlier Life and Letters of Walter H. Page by Burton J. Hendrick
  • 1930s

  • 1930: The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston by Marquis James
  • 1931: Charles W. Eliot, President of Harvard University, 1869–1901 by Henry James
  • 1932: Theodore Roosevelt: A Biography by Henry F. Pringle
  • 1933: Grover Cleveland: A Study in Courage by Allan Nevins
  • 1934: John Hay by Tyler Dennett
  • 1935: R. E. Lee by Douglas S. Freeman
  • 1936: The Thought and Character of William James by Ralph Barton Perry
  • 1937: Hamilton Fish by Allan Nevins
  • 1938: Pedlar's Progress: The Life of Bronson Alcott by Odell Shepard
  • 1938: Andrew Jackson, 2 vols. by Marquis James
  • 1939: Benjamin Franklin by Carl Van Doren
  • 1940s

  • 1940: Woodrow Wilson, Life and Letters. Vols. VII and VIII by Ray Stannard Baker
  • 1941: Jonathan Edwards, 1703–1758: a biography by Ola Elizabeth Winslow
  • 1942: Crusader in Crinoline: The Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe by Forrest Wilson
  • 1943: Admiral of the Ocean Sea by Samuel Eliot Morison
  • 1944: The American Leonardo: The Life of Samuel F. B. Morse by Carleton Mabee
  • 1945: George Bancroft: Brahmin Rebel by Russel Blaine Nye
  • 1946: Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir by Linnie Marsh Wolfe
  • 1947: The Autobiography of William Allen White by William Allen White
  • 1948: Forgotten First Citizen: John Bigelow by Margaret Clapp
  • 1949: Roosevelt and Hopkins by Robert E. Sherwood
  • 1950s

  • 1950: John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy by Samuel Flagg Bemis
  • 1951: John C. Calhoun: American Portrait by Margaret Louise Coit
  • 1952: Charles Evans Hughes by Merlo J. Pusey
  • 1953: Edmund Pendleton 1721–1803 by David J. Mays
  • 1954: The Spirit of St. Louis by Charles A. Lindbergh
  • 1955: The Taft Story by William S. White
  • 1956: Benjamin Henry Latrobe by Talbot Faulkner Hamlin
  • 1957: Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy
  • 1958: George Washington, Volumes I-VI by Douglas Southall Freeman, and Volume VII, written by John Alexander Carroll and Mary Wells Ashworth after Dr. Freeman's death in 1953
  • 1959: Woodrow Wilson, American Prophet by Arthur Walworth
  • 1960s

  • 1960: John Paul Jones by Samuel Eliot Morison
  • 1961: Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War by David Donald
  • 1962: no award given
  • 1963: Henry James by Leon Edel
  • 1964: John Keats by Walter Jackson Bate
  • 1965: Henry Adams, 3 vols., by Ernest Samuels
  • 1966: A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
  • 1967: Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain by Justin Kaplan
  • 1968: Memoirs by George Frost Kennan
  • 1969: The Man From New York: John Quinn and His Friends by Benjamin Lawrence Reid
  • 1970s

  • 1970: Huey Long by Thomas Harry Williams
  • 1971: Robert Frost : The Years of Triumph, 1915–1938, by Lawrence Thompson
  • 1972: Eleanor and Franklin by Joseph P. Lash
  • 1973: Luce and His Empire by W. A. Swanberg
  • 1974: O'Neill, Son and Artist by Louis Sheaffer
  • 1975: The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro
  • 1976: Edith Wharton: A Biography by R. W. B. Lewis
  • 1977: A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence by John E. Mack
  • 1978: Samuel Johnson by Walter Jackson Bate
  • 1979: Days of Sorrow and Pain: Leo Baeck and the Berlin Jews by Leonard Baker
  • 1980s

    Entries from this point on include the finalists listed after the winner for each year.

  • 1980: The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
  • Being Bernard Berenson by Meryle Secrest
  • Bernard Berenson, The Making of a Connoisseur by Ernest Samuels
  • The Duke of Deception by Geoffrey Wolff
  • 1981: Peter the Great: His Life and World by Robert K. Massie
  • Walt Whitman: A Life by Justin Kaplan
  • Walter Lippmann and the American Century by Ronald Steel
  • 1982: Grant: A Biography by William S. McFeely
  • Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
  • Waldo Emerson by Gay Wilson Allen
  • 1983: Growing Up by Russell Baker
  • Churchill: Young Man in a Hurry, 1874–1915 by Ted Morgan
  • Thomas E. Dewey and His Times by Richard Norton Smith
  • 1984: Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901–1915 by Louis R. Harlan
  • Black Apollo of Science: The Life of Ernest Everett Just by Kenneth Manning
  • Thomas Carlyle: A Biography by Fred Kaplan
  • 1985: The Life and Times of Cotton Mather by Kenneth Silverman
  • Becoming William James by Howard M. Feinstein
  • The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton by Michael Mott
  • 1986: Louise Bogan: A Portrait by Elizabeth Frank
  • A Hidden Childhood: A Jewish Girl's Sanctuary in a French Convent, 1942–1945 by Frida Scheps Weinstein
  • George Washington Williams: A Biography by John Hope Franklin
  • 1987: Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference by David J. Garrow
  • Dostoevsky: The Stir of Liberation, 1860–1865 by Joseph Frank
  • Murrow: His Life and Times by A.M. Sperber
  • The Life and Times of Congressman John Quincy Adams by Leonard L. Richards
  • 1988: Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe by David Herbert Donald
  • George Santayana: A Biography by John Owen McCormick
  • Hemingway by Kenneth S. Lynn
  • 1989: Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellmann
  • A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan
  • Freud: A Life for Our Time by Peter Gay
  • The Life of Langston Hughes: Volume II, 1941–1967: I Dream a World by Arnold Rampersad
  • 1990s

  • 1990: Machiavelli in Hell by Sebastian de Grazia
  • A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt by Geoffrey C. Ward
  • Clear Pictures: First Loves, First Guides by Reynolds Price
  • The Road From Coorain by Jill Ker Conway
  • 1991: Jackson Pollock: An American Saga by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
  • Alfred I. Du Pont: The Man and His Family by Joseph Frazier Wall
  • The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends 1880–1918 by Patricia O'Toole
  • 1992: Fortunate Son: The Autobiography of Lewis B. Puller Jr. by Lewis B. Puller
  • Frederick Douglass by William S. McFeely
  • Orwell: The Authorized Biography by Michael Shelden
  • 1993: Truman by David McCullough
  • Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick
  • Kissinger by Walter Isaacson
  • 1994: W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868–1919 by David Levering Lewis
  • Genet: A Biography by Edmund White
  • In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding by Deborah Baker
  • 1995: Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life by Joan D. Hedrick
  • Hugo Black: A Biography by Roger K. Newman
  • Saint-Exupery: A Biography by Stacy Schiff
  • 1996: God: A Biography by Jack Miles
  • John Sloan: Painter and Rebel by John Loughery
  • Mozart: A Life by Maynard Solomon
  • 1997: Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
  • Herman Melville: A Biography, Volume 1, 1819–1851 by Hershel Parker
  • In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country by Kim Barnes
  • 1998: Personal History by Katharine Graham
  • Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public-Private Life by James H. Jones
  • Whittaker Chambers: A Biography by Sam Tanenhaus
  • 1999: Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg
  • A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
  • At Home with the Marquis de Sade: A Life by Francine du Plessix Gray
  • 2000s

  • 2000: Vera, Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov by Stacy Schiff
  • Clear Springs: A Memoir by Bobbie Ann Mason
  • Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love by Dava Sobel
  • 2001: W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century 1919-1963 by David Levering Lewis
  • Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician by Christoph Wolff
  • The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H.W. Brands
  • 2002: John Adams by David McCullough
  • An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood by Jimmy Carter
  • Grant by Jean Edward Smith
  • 2003: Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro
  • Beethoven: The Music and the Life by Lewis Lockwood
  • The Fly Swatter by Nicholas Dawidoff
  • 2004: Khrushchev: The Man and His Era by William Taubman
  • Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work by Hayden Herrera
  • Isaac Newton by James Gleick
  • 2005: de Kooning: An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan
  • Under a Wild Sky: John James Audubon and the Making of The Birds of America by William Souder
  • Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt
  • 2006: American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin
  • The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism by Megan Marshall
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  • 2007: The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher by Debby Applegate
  • Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw
  • John Wilkes: The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty by Arthur H. Cash
  • 2008: Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father by John Matteson
  • The Life of Kingsley Amis by Zachary Leader
  • The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein by Martin Duberman
  • 2009: American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham
  • The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century by Steve Coll
  • Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by H.W. Brands
  • 2010s

  • 2010: The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles
  • Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey
  • Woodrow Wilson: A Biography by John Milton Cooper, Jr.
  • 2011: Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
  • Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon by Michael O'Brien
  • The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century by Alan Brinkley
  • 2012: George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis
  • Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
  • Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution by Mary Gabriel
  • 2013: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
  • Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece by Michael Gorra
  • The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy by David Nasaw
  • 2014: Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall
  • Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World by Leo Damrosch
  • Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life by Jonathan Sperber
  • 2015: The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David I. Kertzer
  • Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism by Thomas Brothers
  • Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878–1928 by Stephen Kotkin
  • 2016: Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan
  • Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles
  • The Light of the World: A Memior by Elizabeth Alexander
  • Repeat winners

    No one has won the Pulitzer for Biography or Autobiography three times. Eleven people have won two:

  • Burton J. Hendrick, 1923, 1929
  • Allan Nevins, 1933, 1937
  • Marquis James, 1930, 1938
  • Douglas S. Freeman, 1935, 1958
  • Samuel Eliot Morison, 1943, 1960
  • Walter Jackson Bate, 1964, 1978
  • David Herbert Donald, 1961, 1988
  • David Levering Lewis, 1994, 2001
  • David McCullough, 1993, 2002
  • Robert Caro, 1975, 2003
  • W. A. Swanberg was selected by the Pulitzer board in 1962 and 1973 but the trustees overturned the 1962 prize for Citizen Hearst.


    Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography Wikipedia

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