The state of Georgia inaugurated the Governor’s Awards in the Humanities in 1986.
Through the initiative of Governor Joe Frank Harris, Georgia Humanities was designated as the convener and organizer of this annual event, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the humanities. Georgia’s program is among the first of its kind in the nation. Other states that offer governor’s awards programs are Alaska, Montana, and Missouri, and the National Endowment for the Humanities awards the National Humanities Medal (presented by the president of the United States) to individuals for distinguished contributions to the humanities.
Georgia’s governor’s awards also are occasion for the presentation of the Annual Humanities Lecture, delivered before a public audience in Atlanta. Past speakers include poet laureates David Bottoms and Bettie Sellers, historians Dan Carter, James Cobb, and Phinizy Spalding, theologian Robert Franklin, National Endowment for the Humanities chairman William Ferris, literary scholar Virginia Spencer Carr, and other distinguished thinkers and writers. More recent presentations are printed and available from Georgia Humanities or its Web site.
The Governor’s Awards in the Humanities recognize individual Georgians and Georgia-based institutions for their contributions to the enrichment and diffusion of ideas among the people of Georgia. Recipient institutions include museums, historical societies, libraries, foundations, businesses, journals, media, and programs. The governor’s award recognizes institutions for the scope and cumulative impact of their work, their exemplary efforts to promote greater public awareness and appreciation of the humanities, and their service to Georgia’s communities and the state. Institutional award winners include the Massie Heritage Center in Savannah, Augusta Museum of History, Historic Augusta, the Georgia Sea Island Singers, the journals Chattahoochee Review and the Georgia Review, and the University of Georgia Press.
Individual recipients of the governor’s awards come from every region of the state. They are recognized for devoting a lifetime of service toward advancing the humanities and include writers who have recovered stories that would otherwise be lost and presented them to new audiences; master teachers at the school and collegiate levels whose love for, and devotion to, history, literature, and other disciplines of the humanities have influenced generations of learners and enriched the quality of life in their communities; scholars whose efforts have ensured that the humanities reach the broadest possible public audiences; and community activists, professionals, and volunteers whose labors are critical to the preservation of the building blocks of community memory—architecture, archival records, archaeological finds, and the narratives and biographies of those who came before us. Among the individual award winners are Adrienne Bond, Kenneth Coleman, W. W. Law, and Robert Scott.
Recipients of the governor’s awards are honored at a special luncheon and ceremony in the Old Georgia Railroad Freight Depot, adjacent to the state capitol building. The annual lecture is presented at the same location the morning of the ceremony. The award includes a citation of achievement and a specially inscribed medallion presented by the governor. Past presenters include governors Joe Frank Harris, Zell Miller, Roy Barnes, and Sonny Perdue.
The Governor’s Awards in the Humanities is a unique way of bringing recognition to the often “unsung heroes” in Georgia’s communities, those who rarely seek attention for their efforts; but because of these efforts, the lives of Georgia’s citizens are enriched.