Biden Honors ‘Important Civil Rights Leader’ Bryan Stevenson with National Humanities Medal

By Howard Koplowitz

Bryan Stevenson accepts the National Humanities Medal from President Joe Biden

President Biden awarded Bryan Stevenson, attorney and founder of the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative, with a National Humanities Medal “for his moral call to redeem the soul of our nation.”

The EJI helps to free wrongly convicted Death Row inmates and set up memorials to lynching victims.

In 2021, it opened the Legacy Museum to spotlight the history of slavery and last year it launched an anti-hunger program as part of its Anti-Poverty Initiative.

Stevenson was announced as a National Humanities Medal Recipient in 2021, but the ceremony was postponed to Tuesday because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The honor is given to “an individual or organization whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience, broadened citizens’ engagement with history or literature, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to cultural resources,” according to the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biden called Stevenson “one of the most important civil rights leaders” in the country, adding that the attorney provided a “compelling foundation” for Biden to sign the law named after Emmett Till that makes lynching a federal crime.

“Bryan does it all — challenges us to get proximity to the suffering and abandoned and the poor and the condemned so that as we search for the humanity in others, we find it within ourselves first,” the president said.

Biden said he was awarding Stevenson with a National Humanities Medal “for his moral call to redeem the soul of our nation.”

“An advocate fighting tirelessly for the poor, incarcerated, and condemned, Bryan Stevenson follows the Book of Micah’s instructions to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly as he chronicles the legacy of lynching and racism in America, shining a light on what has been and all that we can be as a nation,” the president said.