New York City, March 6, 2012—PEN American Center, the largest branch of the world’s oldest literary and human rights organization, announced today at its Annual Members Meeting the election of Peter Godwin as its president. Godwin succeeds Kwame Anthony Appiah, who served as the group’s president for the last three years.

Commenting on his election, Godwin said:

“It’s a privilege to assume the presidency of PEN American Center. I hope to help build on the considerable achievements of Anthony Appiah and his predecessors. PEN is the world’s oldest literary and human rights organization, and as PEN American Center approaches its 90th anniversary in an increasingly interconnected world, PEN’s mission to encourage and protect writers’ freedom of expression has never been more vital.”

Appiah said of his presidency and Peter Godwin’s election:

“It’s been a great honor to serve as PEN’s president for the last three years, as we have made great strides despite the great recession. I am especially proud of our work on the international front with the Independent Chinese PEN Center, which was instrumental in Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Prize, and, on the domestic front, of Reckoning with Torture, our response to some of the challenges to human rights and civil liberties at home since 9/11. But whenever I am reminded of any of our programs—prison writing, translation, working with children and young adults and those who write for them, our amazing literary Festival—I have felt a small surge of pride. I’m delighted that Peter has agreed to take on this important work, not only because he (like me) grew up in Africa, but because he has both the experience and the commitment to lead us in our mission of mobilizing our American literary community in the service of free expression and the dialogue of cultures.”

The newly-elected and reelected officer trustees of the Board also include John Troubh, Executive Vice President; Ron Chernow, Vice President; Victoria Redel, Vice President; John Oakes, Treasurer; and Elinor Lipman, Secretary.

Other newly-elected or reelected trustees of PEN’s Board are Cara Benson, Ed Burlingame, Jeri Laber, Gregory Pardlo, Susanna Reich, Clinton Ives Smullyan Jr., Danielle Truscott, and Jacob Weisberg. Biographical information of these Trustees can be found here.

Members of PEN’s Board continuing in their service are Susan Bernofsky, Anne Burt, Morgan Entrekin, Wendy Gimbel, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, Christian Oberbeck, Tess O’Dwyer, Hannah Pakula, Walter Pozen, Theresa Rebeck, Hamilton Robinson, Jr., Elissa Schappell, Rose Styron, Annette Tapert, Lynne Tillman, and Davis Weinstock.

PEN American Center is the United States branch of PEN International, which was founded in 1921 as a response to the ethnic and national divisions that culminated in the First World War. Since its founding, PEN has worked to promote international understanding through the promotion of literature and the defense of free expression. PEN American Center was founded in 1922 and is the largest of the 145 PEN centers in 104 countries that constitute PEN International. Its distinguished Members carry on the contributions and achievements of such past Members as W.H. Auden, James Baldwin, Willa Cather, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, Thomas Mann, Arthur Miller, Marianne Moore, Eugene O’Neill, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck. Recent presidents include Francine Prose, Ron Chernow, and Salman Rushdie.

Emma Connolly, (212) 334-1660 ext. 103
Paul W. Morris, (212) 334-1660 ext. 108