The remainder of the spring lineup of the NYS Writers Institute has been postponed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Colson Whitehead

79th Annual McKinney Awards

8 p.m. Monday, April 13, 2020
CBIS (Biotech) Auditorium, RPI, 1623 15th St, Troy, NY 12180
For directions, visit:
Free and open to the public.

Colson Whitehead, a leading writer of his generation, will be the guest speaker at the 2020 Annual McKinney Awards event at 8 p.m. Monday, April 13, in the CBIS (Biotech) Auditorium, 1623 15th Street Troy, NY 12180. 


Whitehead received the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and Carnegie Medal for his #1 New York Times bestseller, "The Underground Railroad" (2016), an alternative history novel about escaped slaves and slave-catchers set in the pre-Civil War South.


Whitehead also serves as New York’s official State Author by proclamation of Governor Cuomo under the auspices of the New York State Writers Institute.


His new novel is The Nickel Boys (2019), about young men struggling to survive in a Florida reform school based on the notorious, real-life Dozier School for Boys, where dozens of young inmates died under suspicious circumstances. TIME magazine named The Nickel Boys one of the top ten books of the decade.

For directions, visit: 


Sponsored by the Annual McKinney Writing Contest and Reading, Rensselaer's annual writing competition for undergraduate and graduate students and named for alumnus Dr. Samuel P. McKinney, who began the contest in to honor his wife and to recognize and reward the communication skills of Rensselaer students. The event includes a reading from a distinguished novelist or poet.


Additional sponsors include the Vollmer W. Fries Lecture; Department of Communication and Media; School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; Rensselaer Union; Friends of the Folsom Library; Poets & Writers; and the NYS Writers Institute.

Colson Whitehead credit Madeline Whitehead

Photo by Madeline Whitehead  

Colson Whitehead, Nickel Boys