John Edgar Wideman photos courtesy of Emmai AlaquivaJohn Edgar Wideman
Class of 1959
Pittsburgh Peabody alumnus John Edgar Wideman is a distinguished author writer, professor emeritus at Brown University, and sits on the contributing editorial board of the literary journal Conjunctions. His nearly 20 books of fiction and nonfiction, including the novels Two Cities, The Cattle Killing, and Philadelphia Fire. Not to mention, his articles, short stories, book reviews and poetry have appeared widely in periodicals. Previously Distinguished Professor and Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Wideman has received many awards and honors, including an O. Henry Award (2000); a Reader’s Digest/Lila Wallace Grant (1999); a MacArthur Fellowship (1993 – 98); the Rea Prize for Short Fiction (1998); and the Lannan Literary Fellowship for Fiction (1991). Mr. Wideman has been appointed the Asa Messer Professor and Professor of Africana Studies and Literary Arts at Brown University.
Last month, he published a short story in the New Yorker entitled, “Writing Teacher”.
Wideman grew up in Pittsburgh, where much of his writing is set. He graduated from Peabody High School, then attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he became an All-Ivy League forward on the basketball team. In 1962, he was only the second African American to win a Rhodes Scholarship, graduating in 1966.
Mr. Wideman is the first to win the International PEN/Faulkner Award twice: in 1984 for Sent for You Yesterday and in 1990 for Philadelphia Fire. In 2000, he won the O. Henry Award for his short story "Weight", published in Callaloo journal. Following the publication of the Homewood trilogy, The New York Times proclaimed John Edgar Wideman, "one of America's premier writers of fiction."
He has taught at the University of Wyoming, University of Pennsylvania, where he founded and chaired the African American Studies Department, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst's MFA Program for Poets & Writers.
Wideman was chosen as winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story in 1998, for outstanding achievement, and won the lifetime achievement award of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards in 2011. Wideman is also the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant. In 2016, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
In November 2017, Wideman returned to Pittsburgh for a special guest appearance at Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland for an University of Pittsburgh's Humanities Center event.