March Events Launch Pulitzer Centennial in SD

Pulitzer Prize centennial events launch in Sioux Falls, Spearfish

Three Pulitzer Prize winning authors are coming to South Dakota for the first two events of a statewide celebration of the Prize’s 100th anniversary.

The South Dakota Humanities Council, with partners Augustana University and Black Hills State University, host Prize-winning authors Elizabeth Fenn in Sioux Falls and Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin in Spearfish to kick off the yearlong slate of events.

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Fenn was drawn into the history of the Mandan people through research on the smallpox epidemic that spread into the heart of the North American continent in the late 1700s. Her book ‘Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People’ won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for history. She presents on Thursday, March 10, 7 pm at Augustana University’s Morrison Commons in Sioux Falls. The Center for Western Studies also hosts a meet and greet with Fenn on March 10 from 3 pm to 5 pm.

Historian, Biographers Talk on the Mandan People, Creator of the Atomic Bomb

J. Robert Oppenheimer led the way in the developing the atomic bomb, a move which sparked his moral concerns about the consequences of scientific progress. Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin detail this story in their work ‘American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,’ which won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in biography. They give a public lecture on Tuesday, March 15, 7 pm at Black Hills State University’s Claire and Josef Meier Hall Recital Room in Spearfish. The authors come to BHSU with the Madeline Young Speaker Series.

Both events are free to the public and funded in part through the South Dakota Humanities Council’s Pulitzer Prize Campfires Initiative (PPCI) award to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Prize.

The Pulitzer board awarded the SDHC and 45 other humanities councils around the nation a collective $1.5 million to commemorate the centennial.  The SDHC is celebrating the Prize and featuring the best in literature, drama, history, music, and journalism at community events and book talks, with an essay series and through the 2016 One Book South Dakota selection ‘Some Luck’ by Jane Smiley. Smiley will give the keynote address at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Brookings on Friday, Sept. 23.

For more details, visit the SDHC online at or call (605) 688-6113.

The non-profit South Dakota Humanities Council, founded in 1972, delivers humanities programming to the South Dakota people. As a steward of the state’s heritage, the Council promotes the exchange of ideas to foster a thoughtful and engaged society and the appreciation of South Dakota history, literature and the humanities. The council works through grant-making and cultural programs, including the Festival of Books and One Book South Dakota. Learn more at