WASHINGTON (September 13, 2016) — Today, President Barack Obama announced Isabel Wilkerson, a Howard alumna, as one of the distinguished recipients of the 2015 National Humanities Medal. President Obama will award the 2015 National Humanities Medal in conjunction with the National Medal of Arts during a White House ceremony on September 22. The ceremony will stream live at WH.gov/live.
Isabel Wilkerson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, and the author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. She studied journalism at Howard University, becoming editor-in-chief of the college newspaper The Hilltop. During college, Wilkerson interned at many publications, including the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.
Here are the recipients of the 2015 National Humanities Medal. The citations about the 2015 National Humanities Medal recipients will be read by the President at the ceremony. The citation is followed by each medalist’s current place of residence.
- Rudolfo Anaya, Author. For his pioneering stories of the American southwest. His works of fiction and poetry celebrate the Chicano experience and reveal universal truths about the human condition—and as an educator, he has spread a love of literature to new generations. (Albuquerque, NM)
- José Andrés, Chef & Entrepreneur. For cultivating our palettes and shaping our culture. He has introduced new and vibrant ingredients to our Nation, whether through his innovative techniques in the kitchen, his work on clean cooking technology and access to education, or the inspiration he provides to new Americans. (Bethesda, MD)
- Ron Chernow, Author. For bringing our Nation’s story to life. Through his examination of America’s successful giants and titans, he also invites his readers to discover their failures and foibles, uncovering enduring lessons that inform our modern era. (Brooklyn, NY)
- Louise Glück, Poet. For giving lyrical expression to our inner conflicts. Her use of verse connects us to the myths of the ancients, the magic of the natural world, and the essence of who we are. (Cambridge, MA)
- Terry Gross, Radio Host & Producer. For her artful probing of the human experience. Her patient, persistent questioning in thousands of interviews over four decades has pushed public figures to reveal personal motivations behind extraordinary lives—revealing simple truths that affirm our common humanity (Philadelphia, PA)
- Wynton Marsalis*, Composer & Musician. For celebrating the traditions of jazz music from New Orleans to Lincoln Center and beyond. As a virtuoso trumpet player, composer, and educator, he has brought jazz to a wider audience and inspired music lovers to embrace America’s quintessential sound. (New York, NY)
- James McBride, Author. For humanizing the complexities of discussing race in America. Through writings about his own uniquely American story, and his works of fiction informed by our shared history, his moving stories of love display the character of the American family. (Lambertville, NJ)
- Louis Menand, Author. For prose and essays that invite us to think in new ways about the forces shaping our society. His influential works of intellectual and cultural history probe the power of ideas from one era to the next as they ripple across politics and culture. (Cambridge, MA)
- Elaine Pagels, Historian & Author. For her exploration of faith and its traditions. Through her study of ancient manuscripts and other scholarly work, she has generated new interest and dialogue about our contemporary search for knowledge and meaning. (Princeton, NJ)
- Prison University Project, Higher Education Program. For transforming the lives of incarcerated people through higher education. Its programs offer opportunity and inspiration to their students, providing an example for others to emulate. (San Quentin, CA)
- Abraham Verghese, Physician, Professor, & Author. For reminding us that the patient is the center of the medical enterprise. His range of proficiency embodies the diversity of the humanities; from his efforts to emphasize empathy in medicine, to his imaginative renderings of the human drama. (Menlo Park, CA)
- Isabel Wilkerson, Journalist & Author. For championing the stories of an unsung history. Her masterful combination of intimate human narratives with broader societal trends allows us to measure the epic migration of a people by its vast impact on our Nation and on each individual life. (Atlanta, GA)