J. Anthony Lukas Book Prizes

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J. ANTHONY LUKAS'S "COMMON GROUND" was a model and inspiration to Daniel J. Sharfstein, winner of this year's J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize.

Sharfstein's "The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey From Black to White" tells the story of blacks who over the centuries have passed as whites. Largely by mining online databases, he found enough details to spin a narrative about three black families who passed as white.

A professor at Vanderbilt University, Sharfstein recalled that he became enamored with "Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families" in the late 1980s after his brother returned home from college, clutching it "as if it were a sacred text." He said Lukas's book has long influenced his thinking "about the complexities of race in the United States and the possibilities for telling stories about how we see ourselves and order our worlds."

The Lukas prize is one of three administered jointly by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation as the Lukas Prize Project Awards. In remarks at the awards ceremony in May, Nicholas Lemann, dean of the journalism school, said Lukas

had been a "close friend and hero" of his. …