February can only mean one thing---Black History Month!!! That means it’s time to celebrate by highlighting the same figures that have been lauded for the past 40 years. Examples include: MLK, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Booker T. Washington, Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, W.E.B. Dubois, Fredrick Douglas, Muhammad Ali, James Brown, Jackie Robinson, Jimi Hendrix, Grady Abrams, and Frank Yerby. (Okay, I threw those last three in!!)
There is nothing wrong with recognizing any of the aforementioned people, but how about including some new personalities. That is exactly what the 3rd annual Augusta Literary Festival aims to do. This year marks the 2nd year that the ALF will feature the Yerby Award for Fiction. The award ceremony will be held during the authors’ reception on Friday, February 28th at the Main Library branch of the Augusta Public Library from 6 PM – 8 PM. Yerby’s nephew, Gerald Yerby will be presenting the top three finalists their awards. In addition, there will be food, drinks, live jazz by guitarist Robert Reid, and a special poem commemorating Frank Yerby by Augusta’s Poet Laureate Anthony “Sleepyeyez” Carter.
Before the award ceremony at the Main Library Branch, Yerby’s alma mater Paine College will be honoring him as well. At 1 PM on Friday, February 28th, on the campus of Paine College, there will be a Roundtable Discussion with the five finalists of the Yerby Award for Literary Fiction. This discussion will be moderated by Dr. Anthony Neal, Chair of the Yerby Selection Committee. After the discussion, there will be a tour of the Yerby House on Paine’s campus.
These activities will be a great literary appetizer for the main course, the Augusta Literary Festival. The festival runs from 9 AM – 5 PM on Saturday, March 1st. We hope that the community takes advantage of having a homebred literary treasure like Frank Yerby. Just because you may not know much about him doesn’t mean that he is not worthy of your investigation. The more you find out, the more complex he becomes. Here is a brief summary of his many outstanding accomplishments.
Frank Yerby – Augusta’s Literary Giant
Frank Yerby was born in Augusta, Georgia (Sept. 5th, 1916) and graduated from Paine College (1937). He started his career writing romance novels set in the antebellum South, but in the 1950’s switched to historical novels.
He had a series of best-selling novels which included The Foxes Harrow (1946), a best seller which sold over a million copies, and was later made into a movie. Yerby was the first African American to become a millionaire from his writings.
In 1955, he moved to Spain where he spent the remainder of his life. (Yerby moved to protest the rampant and pervasive racism in the U.S.)
Frank Yerby published 33 novels, which broke out of the stereotypical norm of African American characterization in novels. Yerby’s subject matter also defied typical African American writings. This led to hard criticism by many, who felt that Yerby did not represent his race in his writing. His quintessential work, Dohomean, is about an African chief’s son, who was sold into slavery and transported to America.
In 2006, Yerby was posthumously inducted into the Georgia Writer’s Hall of Fame. And in 2013, the Augusta Literary Festival created an award for fiction to honor one of Augusta’s most famous writers.
Frank Yerby was the first African American to have a book purchased by a major Hollywood studio and adapted into a screen play. The Foxes Harrow, which starred Rex Harrison and Maureen O’Hara, was nominated for an Oscar in 1947.
Two other works of Yerby’s, The Golden Hawk (1952) and The Saracen Blade (1954), were also adapted for the big screen. The Saracen Blade starred Ricardo Montalban. (Fantasy Island fame)
For more information on the Yerby Award for Fiction, visit the website: