The National Humanities Medal, inaugurated in 1997, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens' engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans' access to important resources in the humanities. Up to 12 medals can be awarded each year.
Awards & Honors: National Humanities Medals
|Award Year: 2011|
|Kwame Anthony Appiah||
Philosopher, for seeking eternal truths in the contemporary world. His books and essays within and beyond his academic discipline have shed moral and intellectual light on the individual in an era of globalization and evolving group identities.
Poet, for his contributions to American letters. Since his first book was published in 1956, he has been awarded nearly every prize available for poetry, including a Pulitzer Prize and the Grand Prix de Biennales Internationales de Poésie. One of the New York School poets, he has changed how we read poetry and has influenced generations of poets.
Historian and librarian, for his determination to make knowledge accessible to everyone. As an author he has illuminated the world of Enlightenment and Revolutionary France, and as a librarian he has endeavored to make his vision for a comprehensive national library of digitized books a reality
|National History Day||
A program that inspires in American students a passion for history. Each year more than half a million children from across the country compete in this event, conducting research and producing websites, papers, performances, and documentaries to tell the human story.
Literary scholar, for his insight into the American character, past and present. He has been called “America’s best social critic” for his essays on current issues and higher education. As a professor in American studies, he reveals how classics by Melville and Emerson have shaped our history and contemporary life.
Musician and scholar, for his rare ability to join artistry to the history of culture and ideas. His writings —about Classical composers and Romantic tradition—highlight how music evolves and remains a vibrant, living art.
Medieval historian, for his inspired teaching and writing. His erudite studies have deepened our understanding of medieval Spain and Europe, while his late examination of how society has coped with terror has taught important lessons about the dark side of western progress
Literary scholar, for his bold explorations of identity along the border separating the United States and Mexico. Through his studies of Chicano literature and the development of the novel in Europe and America, he beckons us to notice the cultural and literary markings that unite and divide us.
Economist and Nobel laureate, for his insights into the causes of poverty, famine, and injustice. By applying philosophical thinking to questions of policy, he has changed how standards of living are measured and increased our understanding of how to fight hunger.
|Award Year: 2010|
Literary scholar for his contributions to American literature and culture. As the founding president of the Library of America, he helped preserve our nation’s heritage by publishing America’s most significant writing in authoritative editions.
Historian for illuminating the nation’s early history and pioneering the field of Atlantic history. Bailyn, who spent his career at Harvard, has won two Pulitzer Prizes, the first for The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, and the second for Voyagers to the West.
For his distinguished career as a scholar, educator, and public intellectual. One of the founders of the field of cultural history, Barzun taught at Columbia University for five decades and has written and edited more than thirty books.
|Wendell E. Berry||
Author for his achievements as a poet, novelist, farmer, and conservationist. The author of more than forty books, Berry has spent his career exploring our relationship with the land and the community.
|Roberto González Echevarría||Literary scholar for his contributions to Spanish and Latin American literary criticism. His path-breaking Myth and Archive: A Theory of Latin American Narrative is the most cited scholarly work in Hispanic literature. González Echevarría teaches at Yale University.|
|Stanley Nider Katz||
Historian for a career devoted to fostering public support for the humanities. As director of the American Council of Learned Societies for more than a decade, he expanded the organization’s programs and helped forge ties between libraries, museums, and foundations.
|Joyce Carol Oates||
Author for her contributions to American letters. The author of more than fifty novels, as well as short stories, poetry, and non-fiction, Oates has been honored with the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Short Story.
Literary scholar for his work as a biographer and literary critic. His award-winning books have profiled W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Jackie Robinson, and Ralph Ellison. He has also edited critical editions of the works of Richard Wright and Langston Hughes.
Author for his contributions to American letters. Roth is the author of twenty-four novels, including Portnoy’s Complaint and American Pastoral, which won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize. His criticism has appeared in American Poetry Review and The New York Times Book Review.
|Gordon S. Wood||
Author for scholarship that provides insight into the founding of the nation and the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. Wood is author and editor of eighteen books, including The Radicalism of the American Revolution, for which he earned a Pulitzer Prize.
|Award Year: 2009|
|Robert A. Caro||
Historian who has captured the subtle machinations of political influence in America. His biographies of Robert Moses and President Johnson have shown us how individuals accumulate and exercise power in local and national settings.
|Philippe de Montebello||
Museum diurector whose vision has brought great art to an international public and whose leadership revitalized the Metropolitan Museum of Art and fostered arts appreciation among people of all ages.
Historian who has conducted important and innovative research on Thomas Jefferson’s slaves and the life of Sally Hemings and who has brought to light a previously unrecognized chapter in the American story.
|David Levering Lewis||
Historian noted for his insightful examinations of W.E.B. Du Bois, the Dreyfus Affair, and early Islamic-Christian relations in Europe, which have enriched our understanding of the figures and forces that shaped world history.
|William H. McNeill||
Historian recognized for his exceptional talent as a teacher and scholar at the University of Chicago and as an author of more than twenty books, including The Rise of the West, which traces civilizations through 5,000 years of recorded history.
|Albert H. Small||
Philanthropist and collector devoted to sharing early American manuscripts with our Nation’s cultural and educational institutions. His generosity has helped educate countless Americans about those who founded our country.
|Theodore C. Sorensen||
Author who has advanced our understanding of modern American politics. As a speechwriter and adviser to President Kennedy, he helped craft messages and policies, and later gave us a window into the people and events that made history.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate known for his unwavering commitment to preserving the memory of the Holocaust and its victims. He has fostered compassion and understanding through his writing, his leadership, and his relentless advocacy for human rights.
|Award Year: 2008|
|Gabor S. Boritt||
Scholar and Civil War historian, recognized for his scholarship on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War era.
Biographer and historian who helped reintroduce Americans to the personalities, eccentricities, and noble ideals of our nation’s founders.
Scholar and Civil War historian, whose many books on Abraham Lincoln have brought new understanding of Lincoln and his era.
|John Templeton Foundation||
Providing a catalyst of unprecedented work in scientific, religious, and philosophical exploration of the deepest concerns of the humanities and the human race.
Journalist and author who has combined literary and cultural history with an understanding of contemporary urban life to imagine new ways of relieving poverty and renewing civic institutions.
Children’s book author who has opened young minds to history and made the lessons of the past come alive with rich detail for a new generation.
|Norman Rockwell Museum||
Dedicated to honoring and studying the life, work, and ideals of Norman Rockwell, while carefully curating the archives and illustrations of this icon of American art.
|Milton J. Rosenberg||
Radio show host and scholar who combines a scholar’s understanding and a teacher’s openness, making a home in radio for elevated conversation and profound thought.
|Thomas A. Saunders III and Jordan Horner Saunders||
Philanthropists recognized for their leadership and philanthropy on behalf of higher education, the study of art, and greater understanding of American history.
|Robert H. Smith||
Philanthropist who has provided wise stewardship and generous support of our nation’s premiere institutions of historical, artistic, and cultural heritage.
|Award Year: 2007|
|Stephen H. Balch||
Scholar, advocate, and founder of the National Association of Scholars, which seeks to strengthen teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences.
Author of more than 50 nonfiction books for children, including the Newbery-Medal winning Lincoln: A Photobiography and others on the Wright Brothers, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Marian Anderson.
|Victor Davis Hanson||
Military historian and author best known as a scholar of ancient warfare and a commentator on modern warfare.
Philanthropist noted for support of work in the humanities at many cultural organizations, including the New-York Historical Society, the Manhattan Institute, and the New York Public Library.
|Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art||
Foundation to preserve the legacy of the “Monuments Men,” men and women who worked heroically to protect monuments and other cultural treasures from the destruction of World War II.
Author of fiction and literary criticism who is known as “an advocate and practitioner of moral clarity and literary excellence.”
Author and historian known as one of the nation’s leading academic experts on the history of Russia and Eastern Europe.
|Pauline L. Schultz||
Curator and author who founded Wyoming’s Salt Creek Oil Field Muesum to preserve the facts and artifacts of the human experience on the state’s high plains.
|Henry Leonard Snyder||
Scholar and innovator noted for directing the English Short-Title Catalogue (ESTC), a bibliographic database of books published in the British Isles or its territories from the early 1470s to 1800.
|Ruth R. Wisse||
Scholar and author known as a pre-eminent authority on Yiddish literature and Jewish culture in the modern world.
|Award Year: 2006|
Political scientist and author of many articles and books on the modern Middle East, including The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq.
|James M. Buchanan||
Economist and winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in economic science best known for developing the discipline of public choice theory.
Founder of The History Channel, the A&E Network, the Biography Channel, and past co-chairman of the board of directors for Cable in the Classroom.
Professor of comparative literature noted for his translations of Sophocles's Three Theban Plays, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Aeschylus's Oresteia, and Virgil's Aeneid.
Classicist and author of many books, including Not Out of Africa; Heroines and Hysterics; Women in Greek Myth; The Victory Ode; and Greek Gods, Human Lives.
Historian and author of many books on the history of the Muslim world, including The Emergence of Modern Turkey; The Political Language of Islam; and Islam and the West.
Historian and author of many books on religion and culture, including A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada and The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.
Historian known for his seven-volume series on the social and cultural history of California, collectively called America and the California Dream.
|The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University||
Public policy research center devoted to advanced study of politics, economics, and political economy—both domestic and foreign—as well as international affairs.
|Award Year: 2005|
Political scientist and author of many books on the Constitution, including Making Patriots and Taking the Constitution Seriously.
Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves responsible for recovering more than 5,000 artifacts looted from the Iraq Museum.
Classicist and author of many books, among them Homeric Moments: Clues to Delight in Reading the Odyssey and the Iliad
|John Lewis Gaddis||
Historian and author of many books including The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947 and Surprise, Security, and the American Experience.
Philanthropist and co-founder and co-chairman of the Gilder Lehrman Collection, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale.
|Mary Ann Glendon||
Scholar of human rights and legal theory and author of many books, among them A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Antiques authority and writer who, along with his brother Leslie, appears on shows such as "Antiques Roadshow" that deepen understandings of American decorative arts.
Antiques authority and writer who frequently appears on television shows such as "Find!" and "Antiques Roadshow."
|Alan Charles Kors||
Scholar of European intellectual history, writer, and past editor-in-chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment.
Philanthropist, trustee of the Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale University for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, and chairman of The Lehrman Institute.
Etiquette columnist known as "Miss Manners" and author of many books on the cultural significance of etiquette, among them Star-Spangled Manners: In Which Miss Manners Defends American Etiquette (For a Change).
|The Papers of George Washington||
Responsible for publishing what is forecasted to be a ninety-volume edition of the complete correspondence of America's first president.
|Award Year: 2004|
Noted educator who has trained more than one hundred thousand teachers, principals, and administrators at Westside Preparatory School in Chicago.
Scholar of Victorian studies and author of eleven books including Poverty and Compassion: The Moral Imagination of the Late Victorians.
Art critic and editor and publisher of the New Criterion.
|Madeleine L'Engle||Author of many children's books including A Wrinkle in Time.|
|Harvey C. Mansfield||Political philosopher and author of thirteen books on subjects ranging from Edmund Burke to Machiavelli.|
|John Searle||Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language at the University of California at Berkeley.|
|Shelby Steele||Social critic, essayist, and winner of the National Book Critics' Circle Award for The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America.|
|United States Capitol Historical Society||A society founded in 1962 by Congress to educate the public on the history of the Capitol and Congress.|
|Award Year: 2003|
|Robert Ballard, Ph.D.||Award-winning deep-sea explorer known for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic.|
|Joan Ganz Cooney||One of the visionaries and the chief moving force behind the creation of the Children's Television Workshop (CTW) and its highly successful children's television show, Sesame Street.|
|Midge Decter||Former executive editor at Harper's magazine, founder and former executive director of the Committee for the Free World, and author of five books.|
|Joseph Epstein||Noted essayist, fiction writer, social commentator, and literary critic who is the author of thirteen books.|
|Elizabeth Fox-Genovese||Elonore Raoul Professor of the Humanities and professor of history at Emory University, where she was the founding director of the Institute for Womens Studies.|
|Jean Fritz||Author of many acclaimed childrens books including The Cabin Faced West (1958).|
|Hal Holbrook||Actor known for his portrayal of Mark Twain in his production of Mark Twain Tonight!.|
|Edith Kurzweil||Former editor of Partisan Review and author of three books.|
|Frank M. Snowden Jr.||Professor Emeritus of Classics at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and one of the foremost scholars on blacks in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Italy.|
|John Updike||Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, short story writer, poet, and critic, known internationally for his series of novels about Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom.|
|Award Year: 2002|
|Frankie Hewitt||Producing artistic director of Washington's famous Ford Theatre who formed the nonprofit Ford's Theatre Society.|
|Iowa Writer's Workshop||First creative writing degree program offered by an American university; has produced a dozen winners of the Pulitzer Prize, four of the last five U.S. Poet Laureates, and numerous winners of the National Book Award.|
|Donald Kagan||Professor of classics and history at Yale University; author of a celebrated four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War.|
|Brian Lamb||Founder and chief executive officer of C-SPAN, the private, nonprofit cable network that provides access to the proceedings of Congress and other public affiars programming and information services.|
|Art Linkletter||Emmy-winning television personality and author of 23 books, including Kids Say the Darndest Things.|
|Patricia MacLachlan||Author of childrens' books including Sarah Plain and Tall, Journey, and Baby.|
|Thomas Sowell||Professor of public policy at Stanford University; his books include Inside American Education, A Conflict of Visions, and Race and Culture.|
|The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association||Oldest historic preservation organization in the United States which saved Mount Vernon from destruction and continues to maintain it as a public historic site.|
|Award Year: 2001|
|Jose Cisneros||Artist renowned for depicting the people and culture of the old Southwest through his illustrations for magazines, books, and newspapers.|
|Robert Coles||Research psychologist and professor of psychiatry and medical humanities at Harvard University; author of more than fifty books on ethics, child psychology and the humanities.|
|Sharon Darling||President and founder of the National Center for Family Literacy in Louisville, Ky., where she has been at the forefront of efforts to place family reading and learning activities on the national agenda for social change.|
|William Manchester||Historian, novelist, biographer, essayist and memoirist; his works include American Caesar (1978), a biography of Douglas MacArthur, and The Death of a President (1967), an account of the Kennedy assassination.|
|National Trust for Historic Preservation||Organization that protects the built environment and works to incorporate historic places into community life.|
|Richard Peck||Author of more than twenty-five novels and recognized as one of America's most respected writers for young adults.|
|Eileen Jackson Southern||Musicologist who helped transform the study and understanding of American music and founding editor of the journal Black Perspectives in Music.|
|Tom Wolfe||Author of numerous works on contemporary culture and society; his novels include A Man in Full (1998), The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987), The Right Stuff (1979), and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968).|
|Award Year: 2000|
|Robert N. Bellah||Eminent authority on the sociology of religion; senior author of the best-selling Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (1985).|
|Will D. Campbell||Renowned civil rights activist; author of 16 books on various aspects of the South.|
Executive producer of PBS's premier historical series "The American Experience" from its inception in 1986 until her retirement in 1997; executive producer of over 100 PBS programs.
|David C. Driskell||
Renowned scholar of African American art; curator of pioneering African American art exhibitions.
|Ernest J. Gaines||
Author of award-winning novels and short stories exploring race and culture in the American South.
|Herman T. Guerrero||
Philanthropist, humanist, and civic proponent whose leadership has created a lasting humanities legacy on the islands.
Musician, composer, cultural preservationist and humanitarian; winner of 26 Grammys; founder of the Institute for Black American Music and the Black Arts Festival in Chicago.
A leading voice for human rights, social responsibility and the environment in contemporary American fiction.
|Edmund S. Morgan||
Distinguished authority on Puritan and American colonial history whose many books have reached general as well as scholarly audiences.
Recipient of 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature; author of seven novels on the African-American experience, a collection of essays and dozens of articles and reviews.
Creator of the Bard College Clemente Course in the Humanities, an experimental attempt to transform the lives of the poor through education in the humanities.
|Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve||
Author of 20 books and numerous short stories and essays about Native American life and culture.
|Award Year: 1999|
|Patricia M. Battin||Librarian who has organized and led a national campaign to save millions of disintegrating books published between 1850 and 1950; galvanized congressional support for a national program to microfilm these brittle books, thereby preserving their content as a significant part of the record of American civilization.|
|Taylor Branch||Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and journalist whose books have earned him the reputation as a national authority on Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.|
|Jacquelyn Dowd Hall||One of the nation's preeminent scholars of the New South; founder and director of the Southern Oral History Project at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, which is shaping scholarship, education and public programs about the contemporary South.|
|Garrison Keillor||Creator, writer and host of Minnesota Public Radio's weekly variety program, A Prairie Home Companion; host of The Writer's Almanac, a five-minute radio program about literature broadcast daily on stations throughout the nation; author of several bestselling books.|
|Jim Lehrer||Journalist; editor and anchor of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, public television's award-winning nightly news program; author of novels, plays, and memoirs.|
One of the 20th century's most influential political philosophers, widely read among political scientists, economists and legal theorists for his views on justice, basic rights and equal opportunity; author of A Theory of Justice (1971) and Political Liberalism (1993).
Acclaimed filmmaker who has brought history and literature to life for millions of Americans; producer and/or director of Academy Award-winning films Saving Private Ryan (1998), Amistad (1997) and Schindler's List (1993).
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (The Piano, 1990, and Fences, 1987) whose plays present an epic story of the black experience in America over the course of a century; influential promoter of the advancement and preservation of black theater and performing arts.
|Award Year: 1998|
Biographer of Eisenhower and Nixon; author of Undaunted Courage, Citizen Soldiers, and D-Day, three history books simultaneously on the New York Times bestseller list; principal commentator in the PBS documentary films Lewis and Clark and Eisenhower; chief historical advisor on the Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan.
|E. L. Doctorow||
Author of many popular and critically acclaimed novels about America's last 100 years, including Ragtime and Billy Bathgate; many of his novels have been adapted to film, and a musical version of Ragtime is currently running on Broadway.
|Diana L. Eck||
Creator and director of the Harvard-based Pluralism Project, which documents and analyzes America's religious diversity and produced an acclaimed CD-ROM that is now in wide use as a resource for studying the role of religion in American culture.
|Nancye Brown Gaj||
Founder and president of MOTHEREAD, Inc., a national family literacy program that enables newly literate adults to improve their reading skills while helping them encourage and guide the learning of their preschool-age children.
|Henry Louis Gates, Jr.||
Director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research; author of the best-selling Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars and Colored People: A Memoir; coeditor of the Norton Anthology of African American Literature.
Educator, administrator and philanthropist; former president of Brown University and of the New York Public Library; current president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
|Ramón Eduardo Ruiz||Scholar and professor of the history of Hispanic America; author of 12 books, including in-depth studies of the Cuban and Mexican revolutions.|
|Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.||
Prolific scholar and professor of American history; two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, for The Age of Jackson and A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House; author of The Disuniting of America.
Syndicated columnist, essayist and cultural critic; Pulitzer Prize winner for Lincoln at Gettysburg; author of numerous acclaimed books on American culture and history.
|Award Year: 1997|
|Nina M. Archabal||Director of the Minnesota Historical Society and leader in developing innovative museum programs for the public.|
|David A. Berry||Executive director of the Community College Humanities Association and leading national advocate for improved humanities education in two-year colleges.|
|Martin E. Marty||Renowned scholar of American religious history and director of the University of Chicago's Public Religion Project.|
|Richard J. Franke||Businessman and former investment firm CEO, creator of the annual Chicago Humanities Festival, longtime leader of national and state cultural commissions promoting the arts and humanities.|
|William Friday||Executive director of the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, former university president, leader in promoting excellence in humanities education.|
|Don Henley||Member of The Eagles rock group; founder and chairman of the Walden Woods Project for the preservation of historically significant land; major funder for the Thoreau Institute, the nation's premier center for Thoreau studies.|
|Maxine Hong Kingston||Teacher and writer whose novels about the Chinese-American experience have won numerous awards.|
|Luis Leal||Literary scholar whose life's work is a major contribution to cultural understanding of Latin America and Hispanic communities in the United States.|
|Paul Mellon||Philanthropist who has contributed millions of dollars in support of the humanities and the arts; founder of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the nation's largest nonfederal funder of humanities projects.|
|Studs Terkel||Longtime radio talk-show host, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, oral historian whose published interviews chronicle 20th-century life in the words of hundreds of ordinary Americans.|