Seven honorees to be awarded W.E.B. Du Bois Medal

Du Bois medal

The W.E.B. Du Bois Medals will be awarded on Oct. 6 in Sanders Theatre. File photo

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The Hutchins Center Honors are back with a new slate of honorees after a nearly three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The W.E.B Du Bois Medal will be awarded to seven honorees “who embody the values of commitment and resolve that are fundamental to the Black experience in America” for their contributions to African and African American culture, the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research announced on Wednesday.

“Whether they’ve distinguished themselves in the arts, civic life, education, athletics, activism, or any combination of the above, these medalists show in all that they do their unyielding commitment to pushing the boundaries of representation and creating opportunities for advancement and participation for people who have been too often shut out from the great promise of our times,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center, in a statement.

This year’s honorees include basketball legend, cultural critic, and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, distinguished writer and feminist Chimamanda Adichie, LGBTQ advocate and groundbreaking actress Laverne Cox, philanthropist and patron of the arts and education Agnes Gund, business trailblazer Raymond J. McGuire, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and pioneering artist and visual storyteller Betye Saar.

“At this challenging moment in our civil life, the Hutchins Center Honors returns to assert the vital notion that our best way forward is to root ourselves in common principles of leadership, dialogue, and action, represented by each of medalists across their eclectic fields and heroic endeavors,” said Glenn H. Hutchins, chairman of the National Advisory Board of the Hutchins Center and of North Island.

The W.E.B. Du Bois Medal is the highest honor given by Harvard in the field of African and African American studies. Honorees have worked as artists, journalists, philanthropists, public servants, scholars, and writers. Previous recipients include poet Rita Dove (2019), athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick (2018), contemporary artist Carrie Mae Weems, and civil rights activist and former Congressman John Lewis (2013).

The Hutchins Center was launched in 2013 following a generous gift of more than $15 million from the Hutchins Family Foundation, which was endowed by Hutchins ’77, J.D. ’83, M.B.A. ’83. The center includes the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute; the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art; the Afro-Latin American Research Institute; the Hiphop Archive & Research Institute; the History Design Studio; the Project on Race & Cumulative Adversity; the Project on Race & Gender in Science & Medicine; the Image of the Black Archive & Library; the Jazz Research Initiative; and two publications, the Du Bois Review and Transition.

This year’s ceremony will take place on Oct. 6 at 4 p.m. in Sanders Theatre, Memorial Hall at 45 Quincy St., Cambridge, Mass. Two free tickets per person will be available through the Harvard Box Office on Sept. 27 at noon.