The 1957 Pulitzer Decision

In 1957 The Pulitzer Fiction Jury unanimously recommended the award to Elizabeth Spencer’s third novel, The Voice at the Back Door. The novel was part of her Mississippi Cycle. It used the story of a local sheriff’s campaign to examine corruption and racial violence in the American South -particularly a small town’s execution of its black citizens. The Pulitzer Advisory Board overruled the Jury and issued no award in 1957. Per The Paris Review and The New York Times, “Some critics have said that Ms. Spencer’s candor about virulent segregationist racism was the reason.”

Elizabeth Spencer (1921-2019) lived nearly 100 years. She was a celebrated Southern writer in the mid-twentieth century. She won a variety of awards including the O. Henry Award and a Guggenheim among many others. She was friends with prominent Southern writers, such as Robert Penn Warren, William Faulkner, Walker Percy, Shelby Foote and others. She was a distant relative of the late Arizona Senator, John McCain.

I was unable to locate the 1957 Fiction Jurists.

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