Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received Harvard University’s WEB Dubois Award at a ceremony at the University in the United States on October 6, 2022.
The W. E. B. Du Bois Medal is Harvard’s highest honour in the field of African and African American studies. It 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. Recipients have included scholars, artists, writers, journalists, philanthropists, and public servants whose work has bolstered the field of African and African American studies. Previous writer winners of the award include K. Anthony Appiah, Chinua Achebe, Aime Cesaire, Édouard Glissant, George Lamming, Toni Morrison, Ferdinand Oyono, Wole Soyinka, and Derek Walcott among others.
The Hutchins Center for African and African American Research announced in The Harvard Gazette that Chimamanda, alongside six other honourees, will receive the medal as people “who embody the values of commitment and resolve that are fundamental to the Black experience in America”. Other honourees include basketball legend, cultural critic, and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; and ground-breaking actress Laverne Cox.
University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the Hutchins Centre, in an official statement, said this year’s honourees represent an “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.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah (2013) as well as the short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. She has also written the essay collections Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (2017), and Notes On Grief (2021). She is the winner of numerous awards including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Orange Prize, the US National Book Critics Circle Award, and many others.
Speaking while receiving her award Adichie said, “it’s such an honour for me to be on this stage today. It’s such an honour for me to be honoured. Writing is the love of my life and literature has mattered to me for so long and its always so meaningful for me to have my work recognised. It never gets old. I love selling books, there is that house in Nigeria that I want to buy… but, but, the most meaningful thing for me as a writer is to know that as a writer I can create something that means something to other people. And so what moves me the most is to hear from people who have read me who say, ‘your work made me feel seen, your work made me think differently, your work made me feel that I was not alone.’“
Watch the ceremony in the below video;