James McBride, a Distinguished Writer in Residence at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, has been named a recipient of the 2015 National Humanities Medal. This year’s awardees, announced by President Barack Obama, also include Ron Chernow, author of Alexander Hamilton, radio host and producer Terry Gross, and musician and composer Wynton Marsalis, among others.
In addition, Tisch School of the Arts alumnus Moises Kaufman (Drama, '89) was named a recipient a 2015 National Medal of Arts.
President Obama will award the 2015 National Arts Medals and National Humanities Medals during a Sept. 22 White House ceremony, which will include First Lady Michelle Obama. The ceremony will stream live at WH.gov/live.
McBride, who captured the National Book Award for Fiction for his Civil War-era novel, The Good Lord Bird, in 2013, recently penned Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul.
McBride was recognized for “humanizing the complexities of discussing race in America,” the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) said in announcing the honor. “Through writings about his own uniquely American story, and his works of fiction informed by our shared history, his moving stories of love display the character of the American family.”
“Our understanding of ourselves, our history and our culture have been deepened and transformed by these extraordinary humanities medalists,” added NEH Chairman William Adams. “I am proud to join President Obama in celebrating the achievements of these distinguished individuals.”
McBride’s search for the “real” James Brown (1933-2006) is aimed at not only enhancing our understanding of a performer who lived “an extraordinary yet tragic life,” the author writes, but also illuminating the ways in which our cultural heritage has been shaped by his legacy.
McBride, who has been part of the Carter Journalism Institute faculty since 2005, has also written The Color of Water and Miracle at St. Anna, which NYU alumnus and current arts professor Spike Lee turned into a film of the same title, as well as Song Yet Sung.
Kaufman was recognized “for his powerful contributions to American theater. His work sensitively probes questions of culture and sexuality. His award-winning Tectonic Theater Project continues to move audiences with its bold portrayals of contemporary social issues.”
Kaufman is best known for writing The Laramie Project with other members of Tectonic Theater Project. He is also the author of Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and 33 Variations. He made his Broadway directing debut in the 2004 production of I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright, for which he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Direction of a Play.