President Obama Awards 2013 National Humanities Medals

Documentary filmmaker, antiquarian society, historians of the African American experience and the women of the American South, radio hosts, and scholar of East Asian intellectual traditions among this year’s recipients

Diane Rehm awarded a National Humanities Medal
Photo caption

Diane Rehm awarded a National Humanities Medal

Jocelyn Augustino

WASHINGTON, (July 22, 2014)

Watch the 2013 National Humanities Medals awards ceremony online.

President Barack Obama presented the 2013 National Humanities Medals to nine individuals and one organization today for outstanding achievements in history, cultural studies, filmmaking, cultural commentary, and historic preservation.

The medalists are: literary critic M.H. Abrams; historians David Brion DavisDarlene Clark Hine, and Anne Firor Scott; East Asian scholar William Theodore de Bary; architect Johnpaul Jones; filmmaker Stanley Nelson; radio hosts Diane Rehm and Krista Tippett; and the historical organization the American Antiquarian Society. The National Humanities Medals were presented in conjunction with the National Medals of Arts at a White House ceremony.

The National Humanities Medal 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.

The official citations honoring the medalists are:

  • M. H. Abrams, literary critic, for expanding our perceptions of the Romantic tradition and broadening the study of literature. As a professor, writer, and critic, Dr. Abrams has traced the modern concept of artistic self-expression in Western culture, and his work has influenced generations of students. (Read profile.)
  • David Brion Davis, historian, for reshaping our understanding of history. A World War II veteran, Dr. Davis has shed light on the contradiction of a free Nation built by forced labor, and his examinations of slavery and abolitionism drive us to keep making moral progress in our time. (Read profile.)
  • William Theodore de Bary, East Asian Studies scholar, for broadening our understanding of the world. Dr. de Bary’s efforts to foster a global conversation have underscored how the common values and experiences shared by Eastern and Western cultures can be used to bridge our differences and build trust. (Read profile.)
  • Darlene Clark Hine, historian, for enriching our understanding of the African American experience. Through prolific scholarship and leadership, Dr. Hine has examined race, class, and gender and shown how the struggles and successes of African American women shaped the Nation we share today. (Read profile.)
  • Johnpaul Jones, architect, for honoring the natural world and indigenous traditions in architecture. A force behind diverse and cherished institutions, Mr. Jones has fostered awareness through design and created spaces worthy of the cultures they reflect, the communities they serve, and the environments they inhabit. (Read profile.)
  • Stanley Nelson, producer and director, for documenting the story of African Americans through film. By turning a camera on both the well-known and unknown narratives of African Americans, Mr. Nelson has exposed injustice and triumph while revealing new depths of our Nation’s history. (Read profile.)
  • Diane Rehm, radio host, for illuminating the people and stories behind the headlines. In probing interviews with pundits, poets, and Presidents, Ms. Rehm’s incisive, confident, and curious voice has deepened our understanding of our communities and our culture. (Read profile.)
  • Anne Firor Scott, historian, for pioneering the study of southern women. Through groundbreaking research spanning ideology, race, and class, Dr. Scott’s uncharted exploration into the lives of southern women has established women’s history as vital to our understanding of the American South. (Read profile.)
  • Krista Tippett, radio host and author, for thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence. On the air and in print, Ms. Tippett avoids easy answers, embracing complexity and inviting people of all faiths, no faith, and every background to join the conversation. (Read profile.)
  • American Antiquarian Society, historical organization, for safeguarding the American story. Through more than two centuries, the Society has amassed an unparalleled collection of historic American documents, served as a research center to scholars and students alike, and connected generations of Americans to their cultural heritage. (Read profile.)

The medals, first awarded as the Charles Frankel Prize in 1989, were presented during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. The 2013 National Medals of Arts were presented at the same ceremony. Among the recipients are musician Linda Ronstadt and writer Maxine Hong Kingston. After the ceremony, the medalists and their families and friends joined the President and First Lady Michelle Obama for a reception in their honor.

This year, for the first time, the President bestowed a newly-designed National Humanities Medal on the ten recipients. The new National Humanities Medal, a polished bronze medallion depicting Lady Liberty, was designed by artist Paul Balan and selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities in a national medal design competition. It replaces the previous medal, which was designed by 1995 Frankel Prize winner David Macaulay. 

Since 1996, when the first National Humanities Medal was given, 154 individuals have been honored, inclusive of this year’s awardees. Eleven organizations also received medals. Previous medalists include Pulitzer Prize winners Philip Roth and Marilynne Robinson, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, essayist Joan Didion, novelist John Updike, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, sociologist Robert Coles, poet John Ashbery, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. A complete list of previous honorees is available at:

National Humanities Medal
Photo caption

New National Humanities Medal, designed by artist Paul Balan in national design competition

photo Maria Biernik, National Endowment for the Humanities

Media Contacts:
Paula Wasley: (202) 606-8424 |