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History Professor Receives National Humanities Medal

By Elizabeth C. Keto, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: September 9, 2015, at 1:51 a.m.

History professor Evelyn B. Higginbotham is among the recipients of the 2014 National Humanities Medal, the White House announced on Friday.

The award recognizes Higginbotham, a professor of History and African and African American Studies, for her contributions to the study of African American history. According to the White House citation, Higginbotham “has traced the course of African-American progress, and deepened our understanding of the American story.”

Higginbotham and the nine other recipients, among whom are historians, a poet, a food activist, and even an education course, will receive medals from President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House on Sept. 10.

The National Humanities Medal recognizes “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,” according to the National Endowment for the Humanities, which manages the selection process for the White House.

In the announcement, Chad Williams, an African and Afro-American Studies professor at Brandeis University, praised Higginbotham for her scholarship and her contributions to the intellectual history of the African American community.

Williams highlighted Higginbotham’s work as editor-in-chief of The Harvard Guide to African-American History, published in 2001, and her co-editorship with fellow Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., of the African American National Biography, a print edition of which was published in 2008. He also recognized Higginbotham’s own academic work, including her 1993 book "Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church: 1880–1920." Williams described Higginbotham’s book as “a work of meticulous research and theoretical innovation.”

Higginbotham is a former chair of the Department of African and African American Studies. She wrote in an email Monday night that she was "thrilled and truly honored" to receive the medal.

—Staff writer Elizabeth C. Keto can be reached at

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: September 9, 2015

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Evelyn B. Higginbotham is chair of the Department of African and African American Studies. In fact, she is a former, but not current, chair of the department.

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