Council Awards 2014 Linda Flowers Literary Award and Harlan Joel Gradin Award for Excellence in the Public Humanities

Council Awards 2014 Linda Flowers Literary Award and Harlan Joel Gradin Award for Excellence in the Public Humanities

The North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, announces John Thomas York as the recipient of its 2014 Linda Flowers Literary Award. Also, the Council awarded the Harlan Joel Gradin Award for Excellence in the Public Humanities to the Friends of Buncombe County Libraries for their project “Twilight of a Neighborhood: Asheville’s East End, 1970.” Both awards were presented at the 2014 Caldwell Award ceremony at Wake Forest University on October 30.

This year’s Linda Flowers Award  yielded well over 100 entries from all over the country with works of fiction, personal essays, reflections and poems. Those entries were winnowed to a distinguished 23 and submitted to North Carolina Humanities Council Trustee and former Poet Laureate of North Carolina, Joseph Bathanti to choose and present the winner:

I am so pleased – and I imagine Linda Flowers passing benediction – to announce this year’s winner, John Thomas York, for his essay, “O Beautiful Bug,” a fire-breathing memoir about how York, as a Yadkin County farm boy, was evangelized by Henry David Thoreau and charged to devote his life to books and writing and the thousands of North Carolina students he in turn so lovingly has evangelized over the years.

John Thomas York was born in Winston-Salem in 1953 and grew up on a farm in Yadkin County in northwestern North Carolina. He was educated at Appalachian State, Wake Forest, and Duke, and he has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. For over thirty years York has taught English in the public schools. York’s poetry has appeared in many journals — most recently, Appalachian Journal, Kenyon Review Online, and Tar River Poetry — as well as in anthologies such as Word and Witness: 100 Years of North Carolina Poetry and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume III: Contemporary Appalachia. He has published three chapbooks, Picking Out, Johnny’s Cosmology, and, in 2010, Naming the Constellations.

The North Carolina Humanities Council staff and board presented the 2014 Harlan Joel Gradin Award for Excellence in the Public Humanities to the “Twilight of a Neighborhood: Asheville’s East End, 1970.

Organized around Clark’s powerful photographs, “Twilight of a Neighborhood,” is a multifaceted public humanities project that explores Asheville before and after the impact of urban renewal on the community. The discussions and interviews of the project revealed a multitude of viewpoints that often contradicted each other and signaled that the history of urban renewal is complex and shaded. Clark’s images portray Asheville’s East End in the 1970s with bustling business and street life, gardens where people grew their own food, and sidewalks on which children played under the watchful eyes of elders. The project has helped energize an emerging movement of concerned Asheville citizens who believe that their culture and history will shape how they live in the present and define the future.

Asheville was one of the many cities across the United States during the 1950s through the 1970s that participated in urban renewal to improve blighted areas of cities. The theory behind urban renewal was to enhance the landscape of cities and provide displaced residents model housing. In actuality, many rich and vibrant communities of color were flattened and neighborhoods were replaced with wide roadways, highways, and new multi-story buildings. Residents, some of whom were homeowners, were either forced to relocate or move into substandard housing.


To read previous winning entries to the Linda Flowers Literary Award, visit: