R. Kayeen Thomas, Carleton Class of 2006, was awarded the Phillis Wheatley Book Award for First Fiction at the 15th annual Harlem Book Fair on July 19 at the Langston Hughes Auditorium of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City. Thomas was honored for his critically-acclaimed novel "Antebellum" (Simon & Schuster/Strebor Books 2012), which also received a nomination for a 2013 NAACP Image Award. Past recipients of the Phillis Wheatley Award include Maya Angelou, Gordon Parks, and Terry McMillan.
“I am honored to win the Wheatley award for my first novel Antebellum,” Thomas said. “I wrote this book to help bridge the gap between my generation, which is hip-hop, and that of our ancestors who experienced civil rights and slavery.With every recognition Antebellum receives, my hope is that a young person will read it or my latest novel The Seven Days and realize how far we have come as a culture.”
Thomas is an author, poet, playwright, hip-hop artist, journalist, and social justice advocate. He self-published his first book, "Light: Stories of Urban Resurrection," during his junior year at Carleton. His novel, "Antebellum," has garnered praise from such notables as Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and received acclaim from numerous publications, including Publishers Weekly. His third book, "The Seven Days," was released in April 2013. Thomas is an ordained minister under the Christian Methodist Episcopal denomination and is currently enrolled in the Master’s of Divinity program at Wesley Theological Seminary.
Thomas earned a BA in African/African American Studies from Carleton College. He currently lives and works in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Monee Sconyers-Thomas, also a member of the Carleton Class of 2006.