Thursday, October 3, 2013

Harvard Honors Du Bois Medal Winners

Sometimes honors are bestowed amid lots of fanfare and publicity, i.e. the Oscars, the Emmy and the Tony Awards. Everybody know about the winners and the nominees. But, many worthwhile honors are bestowed on worthy recipients with little to no bluster and media coverage. Harvard's Du Bois Medals are worthwhile, but not widely covered. The awards have been given since 2000 and many have never even heard of them nor of its winners. This year's awards mark the launch of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.

This year, Harvard's Du Bois Medal were awarded to six luminaries Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Director Steven Spielberg, and Georgia Civil Rights Activist and U. S. Rep. John Lewis. The Medal is awarded to those whose work contributed to African and African American culture. It is the highest honor in African and African American Studies.Other honorees were Sr. Presidential Adviser Valerie Jarrett, playwright (Lincoln) Tony Kushner, and NBA Commissioner David Stern. Congressman Lewis and Valerie Jarrett could not attend the ceremony, staying in Washington to address the government shutdown.

Justice Sotomayor, the first Latina Justice, was honored for inspiring children by telling stories of her upbringing, while Spielberg was honored, not only for his film making, but also for establishing a foundation to record oral histories of survivors of the holocaust and other genocides.

In 1890 Harvard awarded W. E. B. Du Bois, the first Ph. D. granted to an African American. Today, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute of African and African American Research.