Acclaimed Biographer, Pulitzer Finalist, Award-Winning Author & Reporter
Best-selling author, prize-winning journalist, acclaimed biographer and cultural historian Wil Haygood tells the story of America through the lens of history, politics, sports, race and the lives of change-making African-Americans. Best known as the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Butler and Showdown, his work has chronicled America’s civil rights journey through acclaimed biographies of Thurgood Marshall, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Sammy Davis, Jr., Sugar Ray Robinson and Eugene Allen, the real-life inspiration for Lee Daniels’ award-winning film, The Butler. Haygood’s latest book, Tigerland: 1968-1969: A City Divided, a Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of Healing tells the uplifting story of teams from a poor, black segregated high school that won two state championships in the same year, uniting a racially charged community in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King. 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. Above all, he brings the powerful perspective that this is the history of all Americans, shaping our national identity and common values. Read More >
Exercise the Vote
Celebration of Learning
Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America
In the school year of 1968 – 68, America was mourning the heartbreaking assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. Cities were aflame, citizens were rioting, and America was divided like never before. Against this racially charged and politically polarized backdrop, an impoverished, all-black high school in Columbus, Ohio showed the nation how to start on the road to healing. Master storyteller Wil Haygood draws from his latest book, Tigerland: 1968-1969: A City Divided, a Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of Healing to share this remarkable year in the life of East High School. First, they won the state BASKETBALL championship. Then, two months later, they won the state BASEBALL championship. In addition, they fielded a prize-winning debate team and would send more students to college than ever before. The school more than made history. By setting a remarkable example of fortitude and grace through what they had achieved, they helped ease racial tensions in their city. Connecting politics, history, the drama of sports and the powerful personal stories of the athletes, students and their accomplishments, Haygood creates an unforgettable experience. He also makes important connections to the climate of today. Audiences are exalted, inspired and gain invaluable perspective on a year that continues to impact American culture and politics.
When it comes to sports, race, and the quest for freedom, cultural historian Wil Haygood has a scintillating narrative to share—one that brings important context to our current national conversation about the NFL and Colin Kaepernick contretemps. Drawing from his major biographies of two seminal American figures—Thurgood Marshall and Sugar Ray Robinson—Haygood shows the timeless intersection between sports, race, and constitutional rights. Sugar Ray Robinson, the champion prizefighter, fought for the rights of athletes to partake in revenues from athletic team owners. Famed attorney and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall argued throughout his life that the U.S. Constitution was a bulwark in favor of protest and peaceful dissent. Haygood also previews his newest book, TIGERLAND, which tells the triumphant story of an all-black high school in the 1968-69 school year in Columbus, Ohio, that won, amidst so much national pain, two state championships, basketball and baseball, in the same year. Combining talented storytelling with profiles in social activism, Haygood shares important lessons from history and shines new light on today’s fight for justice.
Wil Haygood's mother was born in the civil rights soaked city of Selma, Alabama. It is little wonder that as Wil was growing up in Ohio, he was always curious about the civil rights era and Martin Luther King—a passion that he later pursued as an award-winning reporter for the Boston Globe and the Washington Post. During his writing career, Haygood has interviewed and written about many of the men and women who worked in MLK's orbit and wrote a great many stories while traveling across the American South. In fact, it was his front page Boston Globe story about the dilapidated conditions that the Lorraine Motel had fallen into that caught the nation's attention and led to a groundswell to have the motel refurbished. In this moving keynote, Haygood examines why Martin Luther King’s quest to make our nation more fair and just still endures, examining issues such as economic equality, voting rights, the criminal justice system, and gender rights.
Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America, Wil Haygood’s acclaimed biography of the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, illustrates one of the most bruising battles of a Supreme Court nominee—and the life of one of America’s most transformative legal minds and champions of human rights. These themes are in the news once again given the changing makeup of the current Supreme Court, but the impact of Thurgood Marshall is everlasting. In this moving keynote, Haygood contends that, in an America rife with racial and class tensions, Marshall’s lessons are just as relevant today as they were in the 1940s and 1950s when he transformed civil rights and the history of America. Connecting the legacy of Thurgood Marshall and the impact of the Supreme Court with the headlines of today, Haygood explores enduring issues of justice while celebrating an unforgettable American hero.
Inspired by the 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.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." Read More >
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 ^
"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!"
"A terrific program and speaker in honor of Black History Month! I thoroughly enjoyed it as did those who attended with me. Mr. Haygood’s presentation was so inspirational."