Rutgers-Newark professor Tillet wins Pulitzer Prize for criticism

Rutgers University-Newark professor Salamishah Tillet was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in criticism for her New York Times essays on race in arts and culture, the Pulitzer board announced Monday.

Tillet, who joined the faculty at Rutgers-Newark in 2018, serves as a Henry Rutgers Professor of African American Studies & Creative Writing at the school. She also is the director of Express Newark, a center for socially engaged art and design that brings together the Rutgers-Newark community and city residents.

She has been a contributing critic at-large for the New York Times since 2015. Her columns cover everything from pop culture to race, politics and more.

“I’m overjoyed,” she said in a release from the school. “I’m deeply honored and humbled by this recognition of my work.”

In the release, Tillet said the murder of George Floyd and the resulting Black Lives Matter protests have informed the way she approaches her role at the New York Times.

“I really wanted to pay attention to the ways in which culture and art can both be an indicator of change and also perhaps an alternative to the problems that we have today,’’ she said. “Most of my work over the last year was looking at how Broadway or television or films or photographs have explored this loss, but also offered us solace, and particularly the role of Black artists as a way of understanding how to get through what is really a traumatic and profound moment for our nation.”

Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor applauded the selection of Tillet.

“She is a brilliantly incisive observer and artist-activist,” Cantor said in the release. “Bringing the full depth and breadth of her person to bear on every piece she writes, she amplifies voices that we all need to hear and prismatically reveals spectrums of lived experiences and ideas that we all need to see.”

Tillet, who lives in Newark, received her bachelor’s degree in English and Afro-American studies from the University of Pennsylvania, her Master of Arts in teaching from Brown University and her Ph.D. in American studies from Harvard University.