2010 National Humanities Medals Awarded

On March 2, President Barack Obama presented the 2010 National Humanities Medals to ten individuals honored for their outstanding achievements in history, literature, education, and cultural policy. The medalists include historians Bernard Bailyn and Gordon S. Wood, and legal historian and higher education policy expert Stanley Nider Katz.

The medals were presented at a White House ceremony. Earlier in the day, several of the medalists participated in a roundtable discussion, held at NEH headquarters, on the role of the humanities in contemporary culture.

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:

  • Daniel Aaron 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.
  • Bernard Bailyn 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.
  • Jacques Barzun 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 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 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 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 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.
  • Arnold Rampersad 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.
  • Philip Roth 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 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.

The medals, first awarded as the Charles Frankel Prize in 1989, were presented during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. Since 1996, when the first National Humanities Medal was given, 125 individuals have been honored, inclusive of this year’s awardees. Nine organizations also received medals. A complete list of previous honorees is available at: https://www.neh.gov/whoweare/nationalmedals.html

NEH recently announced that it is accepting nominations for the 2011 Humanities Medals.

Individual nominees must be living U.S. citizens or permanent residents who have filed for naturalization. Nominated organizations must be established or incorporated in the United States. Self-nominations are not permitted. Please consult the list of previous honorees (see above) before submitting a nomination.

NEH welcomes nominations for individuals and organizations whose activities support excellence in the humanities. Examples of such activities may include:
• significant scholarship or writing that advances understanding of the humanities;
• development of outstanding humanities education programs for traditional students and adult learners;
• production of exemplary television documentaries or radio programs;
• development of excellent interpretive exhibitions, reading and discussion programs, or other programs that enrich the public’s understanding of the humanities;
• sustained philanthropic efforts on behalf of humanities activities or organizations;
• design and implementation of new technologies that enhance public, scholarly, or educational access to the humanities; and
• development of programs that affect the ways in which cultural resources are preserved.

Selection Process
The President of the United States selects recipients of the National Humanities Medal in consultation with NEH. The Endowment initiates and administers the nomination and selection process. Nominations are reviewed by members of the National Council on the Humanities, NEH’s 26-member presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed board of advisors, and by the NEH Chairman. Their recommendations are then forwarded to the President for consideration with candidates of the President’s own choosing. The principal criterion for selection is the excellence of the nominee’s contribution to the humanities.

How to Submit a Nomination
To nominate an individual or organization, please use the online nomination form.

Deadline: NEH will accept nominations until Friday, April 15, 2011.