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Humanitarian Award

NYU Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award The NYU Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award is presented annually to a humanitarian within the NYU community who embodies and exemplifies the characteristics promoted by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- "a vision of peace, persistence in purpose, and inspirational action." The recipient must be an NYU alumnus or alumna, or a current NYU faculty or staff member.


2018 Award Recipient

Spike Lee

Spike Lee

Oscar award-winning Spike Lee is a director, writer, actor, producer, author, and NYU Grad Film tenured professor whose body of work continues to grow over the last 3 decades.

Recent projects include Lee's filming of the play Pass Over, currently premiering at Sundance. He also directed all ten episodes of the hit Netflix series SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT, which will be returning for a 2nd season. Spike also just finished principle photography on his latest project, Black Klansmen. He has directed and produced over 30 films since his first feature film, the independently produced She’s Gotta Have It, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986 and received the esteemed Prix de la Jeunesse Award. Lee continues to produce Cinematic works of Art that display his skill and ability to showcase outspoken and provocative socio-political critiques that challenge cultural assumptions, about Race, Class and Gender identity. His film Do the Right Thing, released in 1989, earned Lee an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and remains still relevant today. Lee has also produced several documentaries, including the Academy Award nominated 4 Little Girls and the Peabody and Emmy Award winning films When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts and If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, all with HBO. In addition his Michael Jackson documentaries, BAD 25 and original Off the Wall were both critically acclaimed.


In addition to his prolific film career, Lee has directed and produced numerous music videos and his commercial work began in 1988 with his Nike Air Jordan campaign. Ever moving into new areas, Lee combined his extensive creative experience into yet another venture with DDB Needham to create Spike/DDB, a full-service advertising agency. Lee has also authored several books, including Five For Five, a pictorial reflection of his first five features, Best Seat in the House, with Ralph Wiley, and two children's books Please, Baby, Please and Please, Puppy, Please, co-authored with Tonya Lewis Lee, his Wife.


Born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Brooklyn, Lee returned south to attend Morehouse College. After graduation, he returned to New York City to continue his education at NYU/Tisch, where he received his MFA in Film Production. After graduation, he founded 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, based in Brooklyn. He began teaching a course on filmmaking at Harvard in 1991 and in 1993 he started on the Faculty at NYU/Tisch in the Graduate Film Program where he was appointed Artistic Director in 2002, a position which he still holds.