Acclaimed Biographer, Pulitzer Finalist, Award-Winning Author & Reporter
A prize-winning journalist, biographer and cultural historian, Wil Haygood is the author of seven books including the New York Times bestsellers Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America and The Butler: A Witness to History. His writing has chronicled America’s civil rights journey through the lives and times of Thurgood Marshall, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Sammy Davis, Jr., Sugar Ray Robinson and Eugene Allen, the real-life inspiration for Lee Daniels’ internationally acclaimed film, The Butler. Haygood was a long-time national and foreign correspondent for the Washington Post and Boston Globe, covering events such as Nelson Mandela’s release from prison after 27 years, the ascent of President Obama, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and his own experience as the hostage of Somali rebels. While at the Globe, he was honored as a Pulitzer Prize finalist. A storyteller for our times, Haygood has earned high praise for connecting the civil rights movement and its iconic heroes with current events and enduring struggles. Read More >
Exercise the Vote
In an America rife with racial and class tensions, it is of paramount importance to honor the lessons of Thurgood Marshall, for they are just as relevant today as they were in the 1940s and 1950s when he was changing, all for the better, the civil rights history of this nation. Read More >
Prizewinning journalist and biographer Wil Haygood has written some of the most riveting narratives about historical figures who have changed the dynamics of American life. But his Thurgood Marshall biography, Showdown, truly captured the zeitgeist: Issues of Justice are suddenly back in the news; racial turmoil and the rise of a Nazi movement has stunned politicians on both sides of the divide; a Thurgood Marshall movie, titled Marshall, released in October of 2017, reminds the nation - as Haygood's book did - of this unforgettable American hero. Read Less ^
Inspired by the new motion picture, MARSHALL, Thurgood Marshall’s son, John and acclaimed Marshall biographer Wil Haygood celebrate the achievements, bravery and vision of America’s first African-American Supreme Court Justice. Read More >
Combining the personal recollections of Thurgood Marshall’s son with cultural and historical context from Wil Haygood, author of Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America, this exciting new program celebrates the life and legacy of America’s first African-American Supreme Court Justice. "It is an important time in American history to celebrate the life of Thurgood Marshall," says Haygood, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist widely known as the author of The Butler." "There are a myriad of lessons in the life of this great man."
Connecting the issues of today with the life and times of Thurgood Marshall, this unforgettable presentation promotes productive dialog while celebrating the bravery and vision of one of America’s greatest champions of civil rights, women’s rights and the rights of the accused. Read Less ^
Before he ascended to the Supreme Court in 1967, Thurgood Marshall took four equal rights cases before the United States Supreme Court, winning them all. In 1944, he was victorious in Smith v Allwright, which outlawed discrimination in Democratic primaries. In 1948, the Marshall-led Shelley v. Kraemer case forbade housing owners from inserting into deeds that blacks could not purchase their property upon selling. In 1950 Sweatt v. Painter forced the University of Texas to integrate its law school by admitting a black student. And in 1954 came the titanic Brown v. Board of Education ruling which desegregated the American public school system.
If there is a legal and historic figure from the past who continues to embody the best of American jurisprudence it is Thurgood Marshal, who went from crusading lawyer for the oppressed all the way to a seat on the United States Supreme Court. In his seminal cases that changed American law, we get a sense of why perseverance, grit, and decisiveness have always been hallmarks of great lawyering. Those tenets continue to resonate powerfully in an ever-changing America. Wil Haygood explains why.
This is the amazing story of how journalist and author Wil Haygood tracked down the unknown White House butler Eugene Allen, a story which led to the making of the major motion picture, The Butler. The 2013 movie features seven Academy Award winners, among them Forest Whitaker, Jane Fonda, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Redgrave, and Robin Williams. Haygood served as an associate producer of The Butler.
Wil Haygood was born to a single mother in Columbus, Ohio. He became the first in his family to receive a college degree. With a honed writing talent, he became a nationally recognized journalist and biographer. His career has taken him around the world and to the backlots of Hollywood, where his work has attracted the attention of some of the leading entertainment figures of our times.
Wil Haygood has been called one of America's "canniest cultural historians." As journalist and biographer, he has explored the social and historical dynamics of this country as few modern chroniclers have done in books, magazine articles, and award-winning newspaper coverage. It is little wonder that Bostonian magazine once referred to him as a "Young Literary Lion."
In this fascinating presentation, Wil Haygood shares with audiences how American presidents have confronted the country's social issues. He draws on his many visits to presidential libraries in over his years as a biographer—and his dozens of interviews of former White House officials across many administrations—in offering insights into presidential politics.
From the oil crisis in Nigeria to the war-torn lands of Somalia and Liberia, from the richness of obtaining a South African education, to the heroism of Esther in Zimbabwe—an AIDS-afflicted woman who cared for 10 nieces and nephews and received an outpouring of international help because of Wil Haygood's reporting—this is an evening of scintillating and inspiring stories from around the world. Haygood's journeys as a globe-trotting foreign correspondent (he was once taken hostage in Somalia by rebels) will enthrall you.
“Racism is a moral crime visited upon our children and that we Americans have to continuously and vigorously fight against it.” -Wil Haygood
Though the post-election America may seem dim, hope is not lost within our country. Author of the award-winning article A Black Writer’s Journey into Poor White America, Wil Haygood explains that there is light within our broken country that causes us to keep fighting. From years of reporting, interviewing and researching across the U.S. for the Boston Globe and the Washington Post, Haygood has seen the inner workings of diverse communities. Pulling from his experiences, Haygood concludes that we need to listen to each other’s anxieties to come together and move forward. He is an expert on the politics of race and class in ways that can both explain America’s current divides and give a hopeful solution for the future. As tensions worsen, ends of a spectrum divide and hate crimes rise, Haygood believes that although we are a community that has unraveled, we have the ability to knit ourselves back together.
"Thanks so much! It was wonderful to meet [Wil], and I know that the entire Loyola community loved [his] beautiful and inspirational convocation address!"
"How can we ever thank you adequately for your contributions to the symposium—including the time you took to talk to individual students—to carry on an increasingly important conversation about peace, law, and justice? We have received such wonderful feedback from students, faculty and Dayton residents who attended."
"I just got back to my office from Wil’s presentation – and WOW. It was fantastic! Thank you for recommending him to us. The room was on their feet and he just hit exactly the right heart and message we wanted for our students. He was amazing. WOW!"
"The past two days were filled with sheer goodness!! You know how they talk of sitting at the feet of the “great griots of all time,” well I sensed that was happening for so many, if not all, who came to hear you. The respect, intensity, and connection were all there! And then, the little things: the way you stopped as we were going down the corridor, not just to say hello to staff, but to engage them when we arrived for the student roundtable; and whatever you were saying to each of the students as you signed their books. I thought through each presentation, what a powerful presence, what a remarkable human being!! So, thank you again for leaving so many of your gifts to ponder and to treasure."
"I was so refreshed and recharged by your presentation today. I was reminded to persevere and stay fully committed, regardless of anyone noticing. I’m so honored to have spent the afternoon with you. Thank you."
"Wil was absolutely fantastic! I would highly recommend him to others! We really enjoyed the time we spent with him and hearing his story. Our students were really taken with him and during his lecture you could hear a pin drop—they were completely enthralled in what he was saying! I just can't say enough about him; we'll be talking about it for a long time here in South Texas!"
"Your talk at Tacoma Community College was inspiring, especially to me as a writer. I cannot tell you what a lift you gave me. I'll never forget you. Thanks also for the wonderful inscription and autograph you wrote in my copy of The Butler. I am so happy for your success. You deserve every bit of it."
"Everything was simply fabulous! Wil had a tremendous impact on all the students, faculty and staff he met. In each of the classes (as well as the one-on-ones), people made comments about what a terrific role model he is. And, of course, last night's lecture was inspirational and uplifting. Several were moved to tears. The visit was all we had hoped it would be. Thanks for all your help in making this happen."
"Haygood was out of this world. He was fantastic! I’m still receiving comments concerning his visit. He was a delightful man that our president, co-host, and members of the community truly, truly enjoyed here. Thank you so much, I’m so glad I followed your recommendation—you made me look good!"