Bryan Stevenson Awarded National Humanities Medal


The White House

EJI director Bryan Stevenson was one of 23 artists, writers, scholars, and advocates honored Tuesday at the White House with the 2021 National Humanities Medals and the National Medal of Arts.

President Joe Biden presented 11 recipients, including Mr. Stevenson, with the National Humanities Medal, which honors “individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities and broadened our citizens’ engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy, and other humanities subjects.”

Mr. Stevenson was honored “for his moral call to redeem the soul of our Nation,” reads the White House citation. “An advocate fighting tirelessly for the poor, incarcerated, and condemned, Bryan Stevenson follows the Book of Micah’s instruction to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly as he chronicles the legacy of lynching and racism in America, shining a light on what has been and all that we can be as a Nation.”

The award recognizes the work of EJI, which for more than 30 years has provided legal representation to people sentenced to death, children prosecuted as adults, and people who have been abused and treated unfairly in the criminal legal system.

The medal also honors EJI’s public history work, including our Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, where visitors can learn about our nation’s history of racial injustice and how its legacy informs effective approaches to addressing inequality and injustice today.

The list of recipients includes Johnnetta Betsch Cole, the first female African American president of Spelman College, historian Earl Lewis, Native American academic Henrietta Mann, and authors Amy Tan and Colson Whitehead.

President Biden also presented the National Medal of the Arts—the nation’s highest award for artists—to 12 recipients, including Gladys Knight, Mindy Kaling, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Bruce Springsteen, and Jose Feliciano.

This was President Biden’s first time hosting the awards ceremony, which was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.