December 6, 2023

Two prominent black academics—Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole and Earl Lewis were among 12 individuals awarded the National Humanities Medal at the White House earlier this month.

“National Humanities Medal winners have enriched our world through writing that moves and inspires us; scholarship that expands our understanding of the past; and through their commitment to educate, inform and give voice to communities and stories that are often overlooked,” said NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo). “I am proud to join President Biden in recognizing these distinguished leaders for their extraordinary contributions to the cultural life of our country.” The National Humanities Medal honors an individual or organization whose work has advanced the nation’s understanding of the human experience, expanded citizen engagement with history or literature, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to cultural resources.

A scholar, anthropologist, and academic pacesetter, Cole has been praised for her groundbreaking work on the continuing contributions of Afro-Latin, Caribbean, and African communities and how those contributions have shifted American understanding of black culture and the necessity and power of racial inclusion. in the US, Cole, known as an HBCU leader, served as president of Spelman College and Benedict College – two women’s HBCU colleges. She is the author of many books, including Racism in American Public Life: A Call to Action

Lewis is Professor of History and African American and African Studies at the University of Michigan and Director of the Center for Social Solutions. From March 2013 to 2018, he served as president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. An author and respected social historian, he was a past president of the Organization of American Historians. Lewis chairs the board of trustees at Concordia College, is a board member of the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and a director of 2U, Inc. and Capital Group, American Funds.

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