Chimamanda Adichie to be honoured by Harvard for her contributions to African and African American culture

Named as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine, multi-award-winning Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is among the honorees recognised by Harvard University this year for their contributions to Black history and culture. Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research will award the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal to Chimamanda and six other recipients on Oct 6.

Chimamanda Adichie

Alongside Adichie, activist and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; award-winning actress Laverne Cox; philanthropist and patron of the arts and education Agnes Gund, among others, will be honoured at Harvard's Sanders Theatre on its campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Whether they’ve distinguished themselves in the arts, civic life, education, athletics, activism, or any combination of the above, these medalists show in all that they do their 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,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center, in a statement.

The W. E. B. Du Bois Medal is Harvard's highest honour in the field of African and African American studies. The medal is named after William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, the first Black student to earn a doctorate from Harvard in 1895.

With this award, Adichie joins an exclusive list of trailblazers, including Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Ava Duvernay, Dave Chappelle, Queen Latifah, Nasir "Nas" Jones, John Lewis, Steven Spielberg, athlete-activist Colin Kaepernick, and others who are past recipients of the iconic medal.

Over the years, Adichie has received global recognition for her work and won numerous awards and prizes.

Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Her second, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), won the Orange Prize for Fiction (subsequently the Bailey’s Prize and now the Women’s Prize for Fiction) - the world's most prestigious annual book award for fiction written by a woman. Half of a Yellow Sun subsequently received the Bailey’s ‘Best of the Best’ award out of the 10 winners of the prize during its second decade.

Her 2013 novel Americanah won the US National Book Critics Circle Award and was named one of the New York Times Top Ten Best Books of the year.

Adichie has delivered two landmark TED Talks: The Danger of A Single Story (2009) and We Should All Be Feminists (2012), which sparked a worldwide conversation about feminism and was published as a book in 2014. Notes on Grief, an essay about losing her father, was published as a memoir in 2021.

She has received 16 honorary PhDs and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Adichie divides her time between the US and Nigeria - where she leads a creative writing workshop established in 2008.

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