Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou Honored By Harvard For Contributions To African-American Society

Oprah Winfrey is being honored for her contributions to African-American society.

On Tuesday, Oprah was presented with a W.E.B. Du Bois medal from Harvard University. The honor was created in 2000 to recognize contributions to the African-American community.

According to the Harvard Crimson, during thunderous applause, Oprah accepted her award from the president of Harvard, Drew G. Faust.

“All of us share the same goal regardless of our professions or what our pathways might be,” Winfrey said. “We all want to live up to be the truest, highest expressions of ourselves as human beings.”

The Root’s Peniel Joseph explained the importance of Oprah receiving the award.

“[As] the most successful black woman in the history of media… Winfrey [has an] incredible biography—a life that began in poverty and abuse that evolved into spectacular professional success and philanthropic achievement. The recipient of an honorary Harvard doctor of law degree, Winfrey received the evening’s biggest cheers, attesting to her enduring cultural resonance. She characterized her success as being based on ‘wanting to use my life as an expression of art.'”

During the ceremony, Oprah also accepted a posthumous award for her friend, author Maya Angelou. According to the Boston Globe, while accepting the award, Oprah reminisced about her relationship with the ground-breaking poet.

“I’m so proud she called me her daughter-sister-friend,” Oprah said. In a quote in the Crimson, Oprah said, “[Angelou’s] greatest lessons were to teach us all how we are more alike than we are different.”

As reported in The Inquisitr, Angelou died in May at the age of 86.

“Winfrey and Angelou had a friendship that spanned several decades, and began when Oprah was a young TV journalist who asked for a 5-minute interview. Though she said no at first, the interview eventually happened and lasted exactly five minutes. That was nearly four decades ago.”

The Boston Globe reported that six other celebrities were also presented with the Du Bois medal: singer Harry Belafonte, TV producer Shonda Rhimes, architect David Adjaye, presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett, congressman John Lewis, movie director Steve McQueen, and Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Oprah posted a Twitter photo with fellow inductee Shonda Rhimes, calling Rhimes “the Queen of Thursday night [TV].”

According to the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute, the medal is Harvard’s highest honor for the African-American community. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was a Harvard graduate who dedicated his life to achieving equality for African-Americans.

“It is awarded to individuals in the U.S. and across the globe in recognition of their contributions to African American culture and the life of the mind. Recipients have included scholars, artists, writers, journalists, philanthropists, and administrators whose work has bolstered the field of African and African American Studies.”

Congratulations to Oprah Winfrey and the other honorees.

[Image source: Boston Globe]