Celebrities Honored With W.E.B. Du Bois Medals at Harvard

The medal acknowledges those who have contributed to African and African-American history and culture.

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Steven Spielberg at Cannes Film Festival in 2013 (Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images)

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg was among several luminaries honored with Harvard's prestigious W.E.B. Du Bois Medal this week during the launch of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. The Root's editor-in-chief, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Glenn H. Hutchins, whose $15 million gift helped establish the Hutchins Center, presided over the event Wednesday at Harvard's Sanders Theatre, the Harvard Crimson reports. The Hutchins Center will focus on nine initiatives devoted to African and African-American studies.

Honorees were awarded for their contributions to African and African-American culture. Besides Spielberg, who directed Lincoln, others honored were Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, senior adviser to President Barack Obama Valerie Jarrett, playwright and Lincoln screenwriter Tony Kushner and National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern. Because of the partial shutdown of the federal government, Lewis and Jarrett remained in Washington, D.C., and were honored in absentia.

"We have come so very far, so very far by faith, and lots of hard work, since those contentious early days when the fledgling department was so very vulnerable, its future deeply in doubt," Gates said. "We need people like Glenn Hutchins, the person whose intelligence is a force multiplier. The person who doesn't just have the vision, but who also has a way to make that vision a reality."

Read more at the Harvard Crimson. 

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