Harvard to Honor Queen Latifah With W.E.B. Du Bois Medal for Her Contributions to the Culture

Photo: Gregg DeGuire (Getty Images)

In 1895, W.E.B. Du Bois became the first black student to earn a doctorate from Harvard. Over a century later, Queen Latifah is being honored by the prestigious institution with an award bearing his name.

On Oct. 22, the New Jersey-bred multihyphenate will receive the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal for her contributions to the culture. Specifically, the award is bestowed upon individuals “whose work has bolstered the field of African and African-American studies” and “in recognition of their contributions to African and African-American culture and the life of the mind,” according to their website.

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Other honorees include poet and educator Elizabeth Alexander, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Lonnie Bunch III, poet Rita Dove, BET co-founder Sheila Johnson, artist Kerry James Marshall, and Robert Smith—founder, chairman, and chief executive of Vista Equity Partners.

The ceremony will include closing remarks by author and activist Cornel West.

“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., co-founder of The Root and the Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, told the Harvard Crimson.

Since arriving on the scene as an Afrocentric rapper in 1989, Latifah has blossomed into a cultural tour-de-force, racking up Emmy, Oscar, and Grammy nominations in addition to taking home a Grammy for her groundbreaking single “U.N.I.T.Y.” But for all of her accomplishments on the mic and in front of the camera, she’s been just as prolific behind the scenes with her company Flavor Unit Entertainment, which has secured deals with Netflix, Centric, and MTV, while producing memorable television shows and films such as Beauty Shop, Bessie, and Single Ladies.

In 2003, the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations named Queen Latifah their Artist of the Year, but the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal serves as a testament to her tremendous accomplishments, longevity, and undeniable commitment to the culture.

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“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,” Glenn Hutchins, chairman of the National Advisory Board of the Hutchins Center, said in a statement.

All hail the queen, as she truly stands tall in a league of her own.

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Jay Connor

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for ya'll to stop putting sugar in grits.