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LeVar Burton, Ken Burns, and Walter Mosley to Present at Authors Guild’s 32nd Annual Gala Honoring Jesmyn Ward, Heather Cox Richardson, and W. Paul Coates

Hosted by Molly Ringwald in New York City on May 30

32nd Annual Authors Guild Foundation Gala

NEW YORK, NY—The Authors Guild Foundation will hold its 32nd annual gala on Thursday, May 30, at Pier Sixty in Manhattan. The event, hosted by the actor and writer Molly Ringwald, will honor award-winning author Jesmyn Ward, seminal historian Heather Cox Richardson, and the trailblazing visionary publisher W. Paul Coates, to help raise funds for the Foundation’s advocacy and educational programming.

This spirited event brings together many luminaries from the literary community—including writers, publishers, and advocates—gathering on the waterfront for sunset views, inspiring conversations, and a celebration of our impactful campaigns against book bans and AI exploitation of writers, among other issues. Past honorees include Amanda Gorman, Louise Erdrich, Ibram X. Kendi, David Baldacci, and Joan Didion. These awards celebrate the individuals whose contributions bring to life the fundamental values driving the Authors Guild’s work: free speech, diverse voices, and literary excellence.  

Jesmyn Ward will receive the Foundation’s Preston Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community. Ward’s powerful narratives have resonated with diverse readers, brought significant social and cultural issues to the forefront of contemporary discourse, and given a voice to those who often go unheard. She is the author of nine books that grapple with issues of race, poverty, and historical legacy, including the novels Salvage the Bones and Sing, Unburied, Sing, which both received National Book Awards. She is a professor of English at Tulane University.  

The award will be presented by actor LeVar Burton, who said, “Voices like Ward’s are instrumental in painting a true picture of our very human experiences. Ward’s work champions empathy, while bearing witness to complex truths. Her ability to render both the brutal realities and tender acts of love and perseverance makes Ward a literary force whose values of compassion and unflinching honesty deserve to be celebrated, especially by an organization that advocates for authors and their freedom to do so.” 

W. Paul Coates, founder of Black Classic Press, will receive the Foundation’s Publisher Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community. Coates has left an indelible mark on publishing by founding and leading the Black Classic Press, an independent publishing company now in its fifth decade, devoted to preserving and promoting works by and about people of African descent. The press has published several generations of writers, from W.E.B. Du Bois to Amiri Baraka and Walter Mosley, who is presenting the award. Coates also co-founded the National Association of Black Book Publishers, and his leadership has paved the way for other Black-owned publishing ventures. Coates is also the founder of BCP Digital Printing, which is the only Black-owned book printing company operating in the United States. 

Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild, commented, “Coates has provided an invaluable contribution to American literature by bringing to light older works, including first-person accounts and literary jewels throughout Black history, as well as contemporary voices that we might not otherwise have heard. These works are imperative to our understanding of the Black experience in this country, our history, and who we are as a people. We celebrate their incredible impact on us all.” 

Heather Cox Richardson, political historian and author, will receive the Foundation’s Baldacci Award for Literary Activism. Richardson’s latest book, Democracy Awakening, champions the urgent and continuous need for democracy and provides an accessible history that connects the past to our present challenges. Richardson will be introduced by filmmaker Ken Burns. 

Marie Arana, the president of the Foundation, said, “Richardson’s calm, dedicated, and meticulous rendering of history—even as it is happening—has been a fount of enlightenment in an otherwise bewildering time. Her work reminds us that democracy requires vigilance, education, and a profound respect for the truth. For her insistence on accuracy and her commitment to forging a responsible, educated citizenry, the Guild is proud to honor Heather Cox Richardson.”  

The Authors Guild Foundation empowers writers through its educational programs and resources and by building community; it educates the public and Congress in the crucial importance of the writing profession to the exchange of ideas; and it fights to protect writers’ rights and livelihoods on multiple fronts. It is pursuing legal action against OpenAI and Microsoft for the illegal use of authors’ works in AI development, lobbying for laws to protect author compensation and labeling of AI-generated content, advocating for collective bargaining rights for freelance creators, and using legal and advocacy resources to combat book bans and censorship at the state and local levels. Through its work, the Foundation aims to ensure that we have a rich, diverse literary culture in this country. 

Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available at For more information, please contact Raluca Albu: 

About the Authors Guild and Authors Guild Foundation

With more than 14,000 members, the Authors Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for published writers. It advocates on behalf of working writers to protect free speech, freedom of expression, and authors’ copyrights; fights for fair contracts and authors ability to earn a livable wage; and provides a welcoming community for writers and translators of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and journalism. Through its educational and charitable arm, the Authors Guild Foundation, it also offers free programming to teach working writers about the business of writing, as well as organizing public events that highlight the importance of a rich, diverse American literary culture and the authors who contribute to it.