Queen Latifah and six others awarded Harvard’s W.E.B Du Bois Medal

Actress and rapper Queen Latifah will receive the W.E.B. Du Bois medal along with five other recipients, Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research announced.

The center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will present the award to the honorees during an awards ceremony at the Sanders Theatre on October 22, according to anews release. The prestigious medal of honor “is awarded to individuals in the United States and across the globe in recognition of their contributions to African and African American culture and the life of the mind,” according to the press release.

In a statement to the Harvard Crimson, Harvard University’s student newspaper, Glenn Hutchins, the chairman of the National Advisory Board of the Hutchins Center, said this year marks the 50th anniversary for the Harvard’s Department for African and African American Studies and the 45th anniversary of the Du Bois Institute.

“The spirit of inquiry, truth-telling, activism, and reconciliation that gave birth to both is present in unique ways in each of the seven individuals we honor this year,” Hutchins said.

This year’s honorees also include poet and educator Elizabeth Alexander, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Lonnie G. Bunch III, poet Rita Dove, philanthropist and co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) Sheila C. Johnson, artist Kerry James Marshall and philanthropist and venture capitalist Robert F. Smith.

“At this year’s Hutchins Honors, where we present the W. E. B. Du Bois Medal to seven remarkable individuals, we reflect on the tremendous will of our people not only to survive but to thrive, on the eternal commitment to lift as we climb, and on the indomitable spirit that has for so long made a way out of no way,” Henry Louis Gates Jr., university professor and director of the Hutchins Center, said in a statement obtained by The Harvard Crimson.

Queen Latifah, whose real name is Dana Elaine Owens, broke into the hip-hop industry in the late 1980s, according to IMDb. She released her debut single, “Wrath of My Madness,” in 1988 and released her first album “All Hail the Queen,” a year later. In 1994, the rapper, who was also known to some by her nickname as “Hip-Hop's First Lady,” won a Grammy award for Best Solo Rap Performance for her song, “U.N.I.T.Y.”

The hip-hop artist began acting in the 1990s and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Matron Mama Morton in the 2002 movie “Chicago.” Queen Latifah became the first female rapper nominated for an Academy Award, according to IMDb. In 2015, the actress won an Emmy award for Outstanding Television Movie in 2015 for the HBO film “Bessie.”

This is not the first time Harvard University is honoring Queen Latifah. The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations named Queen Latifah their Artist of the Year in 2003, The Harvard Crimson reported.

Harvard University began the Du Bois medal honor in 2002. Last year, some of the nominees included comedian Dave Chapelle, artist Kehinde Wiley and activist Colin Kaepernick. During his acceptance speech last year, Kaepernick discussed about a visit to a high school football locker room before a big game.

“One of the young brothers says, ‘We don’t get to eat at home, so we’re gonna eat on this field,’” Kaepernick said during his speech, The Harvard Crimson previously reported. “People live with this every single day — and we expect them to thrive in situations where they’re just trying to survive.”

Another honoree this year, Robert F. Smith, made headlines this year after he donated $34 million to settle Morehouse College student’s loan and parent debt. Smith made the announcement during the college’s 2019 commencement ceremony to graduating students, faculty and staff members. The donation would also eliminate the student loan debt for the graduating student’s parents.

“This liberation gift from Robert Smith — the first of its kind to be announced at a graduation in higher education — will be life-changing for our new Morehouse Men and their families,” President of Morehouse College David A. Thomas said in a previous statement. “It is our hope that our graduates will use their newfound financial freedom to pursue their career goals, to lead and serve the community, and to remember the spirit of the gift given to them by paying it forward to support the education of future classes of Morehouse Men.”


About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter