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SLU Campus Read

The Campus Read is an opportunity for Saint Louis University students, faculty and staff to read a specific work by the incoming St. Louis Literary Award recipient and take part in related activities connected to the book and author.

Whitehead is the author of the novels “The Intuitionist,” “John Henry Days,” “Apex Hides the Hurt,” “Sag Harbor,” “The Underground Railroad,” “The Nickel Boys,” and “Harlem Shuffle,” among others. He also penned a book of essays about New York City, “The Colossus of New York.” Whitehead graduated from Harvard College and worked as a reviewer of television, books and music at the Village Voice. In addition to the Pulitzer, “The Underground Railroad,” won the National Book Award and the Carnegie Medal for Fiction. “The Nickel Boys” won the Pulitzer Prize, the Kirkus Prize, and the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. Whitehead has been a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway, PEN/Faulkner, Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Fiction Award and has received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. He has received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Dos Passos Prize, and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. Whitehead was named the New York State Author in 2018 and awarded the Prize for American Fiction from the Library of Congress in 2020. Whitehead has taught at the University of Houston, Columbia University, New York University and Princeton University. He has also served as a writer-in-residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond, and the University of Wyoming. 

2024 Campus Read

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead 

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.