Acclaimed author and professor Imani Perry won the National Book Award for nonfiction, reports the New York Times.

South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation chronicles Perry’s sojourn to the American South, the place of her birth, to explore politics, identity, culture and race. The book is a New York Times bestseller.

After two years of remote celebrations, this year’s ceremony was held at Cipriani Wall Street, a restaurant in New York. In her acceptance speech, Perry spoke about how the history of Black Americans has informed and inspired her writing.

“I write for my people. I write because we children of the lash-scarred, rope-choked, bullet-ridden, desecrated are still here, standing,” Perry said.

“I write for the sinned-against and the sanctified. I write for the ones who clean the toilets and till the soil and walk the picket lines. For the hungry, the caged, the disregarded, the holding on—I write for you. I write because I love sentences, and I love freedom more,” she added.

A highly-regarded scholar, Perry is currently the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and a columnist for The Atlantic. Previously, she taught at the Rutgers University School of Law.

She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in American Studies and Literature from Yale University, earned her Ph.D. in American Civilization from Harvard University, and her J.D. from Harvard Law School at the age of 27.

Perry is the author of Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop, More Beautiful and More Terrible: The Embrace and Transcendence of Racial Inequality in the United States, Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry, May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem, and several others.

Established in 1950, the National Book Award is one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world. Each Finalist receives a prize of $1,000, a medal, and a Judge's citation. 

Winners receive $10,000 and a bronze sculpture.