Prominent Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received the W. E. B. Du Bois Medal by Harvard University on October 6.
The award ceremony took place on October 6 at the Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Adichie was presented the award by former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, whose work Adichie has always deeply admired. Smith shared a heartfelt speech, celebrating Adichie’s accolades.
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The W. E. B. Du Bois Medal is the highest honor given by Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research to individuals who “embody the values of commitment and resolve that are fundamental to the Black experience in America.” After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Harvard decided to restart the initiative to celebrate the values of leadership, dialogue, and action as key to moving forward. Past recipients of the medal include renowned figures likes Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Ava Duvernay, Dave Chappelle, Queen Latifah, and Steven Spielberg, among others.
Adichie is an award-winning Nigerian writer who has penned numerous novels, short stories, and nonfiction. She was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2008 and received the PEN Pinter Prize in 2018, along with winning multiple awards for her individual novels. Adichie’s prolific list of works include Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), Americanah (2013), The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), We Should All Be Feminists (2014), Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (2017), Zikora (2020), and Notes on Grief (2021). In addition, she holds 16 honorary doctorate degrees from some of the best universities in the world.
Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center, shared his enthusiasm for the achievements of the medalists:
Whether they’ve distinguished themselves in the arts, civic life, education, athletics, activism, or any combination of the above, these medalists show in all that they do their unyielding commitment to pushing the boundaries of representation and creating opportunities for advancement and participation for people who have been too often shut out from the great promise of our times.
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Adichie joyfully remarked in her caption, “I felt so honoured to be honoured with Harvard University’s DuBois Medal. And in such good company . . . Oh and that last hug! Apologies to the great Mr. Abdul Jabbar for having to bend so low. Imagine how much worse it would have been without my heels.”
The other six recipients of the award this year include basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hollywood actress Laverne Cox, philanthropist and arts patron Agnes Gund, businessman Raymond J. McGuire, politician and civil rights lawyer Deval Patrick, and artist Betye Saar. See Harvard University’s tweet and news announcement for more details.
Congratulations to Adichie for this well-deserved honor! We are proud of her achievements in the literary world and beyond.