U-M's Earl Lewis receives National Humanities Medal

Earl Lewis on stage with President Joe Biden during an event for the Arts and Humanities Award Ceremony in The East Room of The White House in Washington, DC on March 21, 2023.

University of Michigan professor Earl Lewis, founding director of the Center for Social Solutions, was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Joe Biden during a White House ceremony on March 21, 2023.

The National Humanities Medal, inaugurated in 1997, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities and broadened citizens' engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy and other humanities subjects.

Lewis, the Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies, and Public Policy, is the first U-M faculty member to receive this prestigious award.

“Dr. Lewis is a distinguished scholar, an award-winning author and an educational leader, as well as a longstanding mentor and dear friend,” said U-M President Santa J. Ono. “As founding director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Social Solutions, he is leading the scholarship in justice and equity so necessary for us to advance as a prosperous democratic society. I could not imagine a better selection by the National Endowment for the Humanities and President Biden.”

An esteemed scholar in higher education, humanities scholarship and the role of race in American history, Lewis has authored several books on these subjects. He is also president emeritus of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, where he worked to foster diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education. At the center, Lewis guides initiatives that address four core areas of social concern: diversity and race, slavery and its aftermath, water and security and the dignity of labor in an automated world. Lewis’s impact reaches far beyond the center and is felt by many individuals and departments throughout the university.