Aretha Franklin was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for her “indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades”.
The Pulitzer Prize winners were announced on Monday (15 April) for their achievements in journalism and the arts at large during a ceremony livestreamed from Columbia University.
While this year’s music award was given to the contemporary opera prism, by sound artist Ellen Reid and first-time opera librettist Roxie Perkins, Franklin was honoured with a special citation for her remarkable contribution to music.
Franklin’s accolade marks one of the first “special citations” from the prize committee since 2010, when Hank Williams was posthumously awarded.
While the music category has traditionally gone to jazz and operatic compositions, the awards made headlines last year after Kendrick Lamar made history for becoming the first non-jazz or classical artist to win a Pulitzer for his pioneering hip-hop album, DAMN.
Previous honourees of the special citation have included Bob Dylan, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, George Gershwin and songwriting duo Rodgers & Hammerstein.
Franklin is also the first individual woman to earn a special citation prize since the honour was first awarded in 1930.
The late soul icon died last summer on 16 August from pancreatic cancer at age 76. Since then, her life became the subject of a new documentary, Amazing Grace, that’s currently in theatres and a new reissue of her earliest recordings, titled Songs Of Faith: Aretha Gospel, that features live performances of the 14-year-old gospel singer.
Each year, the prize administrators receive upwards of 2,500 entries submitted for their consideration and over 100 judges comb through submissions to submit to the final board.
The categories focus mainly on journalism, highlighting the best feature writing, investigative and news reporting, commentary, criticism as well as photography, fiction, drama, poetry and music, among others.
See the full list of winners here.