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Book chronicling life, legacy of George Floyd wins Pulitzer Prize

The book by journalists Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa took home Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction in May.

MINNEAPOLIS — It's been one year since journalists Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa published a biography of George Floyd's life before tragedy.

"Robert and I both cover this country and all of its fullness with all of its warts, the highs and lows, and May 25, 2020 was a really low point in this country," said Olorunnipa, a journalist with the Washington Post.

Both journalists knew his story didn't just start after his death.

"We wanted people to really understand that the battle for George Floyd to breathe in America started long before he ever met Derek Chauvin," said Samuels, with The New Yorker. "We went on an effort to show, going back generations and his family, how different parts of the American experience never fully met the Floyd family."

That's when they decided to take on a journey into Floyd's background, from his upbringing in Houston's Third Ward to his impact that now spans across the world. Their book, titled "His Name is George Floyd: One Man's Life and Struggle for Racial Justice," was published in May 2022.

"One anecdote we heard over and over again, from the friends and family who knew Floyd best was that he would always go around saying, 'I love you' to people," said Samuels.

His legacy became a part of history again after the book won the coveted 2023 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction in May.

"I got a call saying that we won," said Samuels. "And the only person I was told I could tell was Toluse and my wife. So I called Toluse, and I screamed, we won."

"I mean, I was in disbelief," said Olorunnipa.

Three years after Floyd's death, both authors said there's still a long journey ahead when it comes to justice, and they hope his legacy lives on through these pages.

"George Floyd was a fundamentally American person," said Samuels. "And if we truly believe that lives matter, whether Black lives or all lives, we have to remember that George Floyd's life, his actual life mattered."

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