The Humanities Awards
Each fall the LEH seeks public nominations for six of the Humanities Awards—Humanities Book of the Year, Humanities Documentary Film of the Year, Museum Exhibition of the Year or Digital Humanities of the Year (biennial awards), Light Up for Literacy, Documentary Photographer of the Year (formerly the Michael P. Smith Award for Documentary Photography), and Lifetime Contributions to the Humanities.
The Humanist of the Year, Champion of Culture, and Chair’s Award for Institutional Support are nominated and chosen in-house by members of the LEH board of directors.
Awards in the publicly nominated categories are selected by special committees made up of local experts in the field and LEH staff and board members. Recipients are announced at the beginning of the next year.
Attend the Bright Lights Awards Dinner to help us celebrate these amazing individuals, organizations, and projects
THE 2023 HUMANITIES AWARDS RECIPIENTS
Humanist of the Year
Awarded in partnership with the Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana and given to an individual for invaluable, lasting, and recognized contributions to Louisiana’s cultural landscape
2023 Humanist of the Year
Chef John Folse
The 2023 Humanist of the Year is Chef John Folse, a culinary professional, food historian, tv personality, restauranteur, and Louisiana culture bearer. A native of St. James Parish, Folse has offered Louisianans and non-Louisianans alike a window on Louisiana food and culture through his restaurants in North and South America, Asia, and Europe.
In 1995 he established the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, and it remains the state’s only four-year, degree-granting culinary program. Folse has spent a lifetime documenting, preserving and promoting South Louisiana foodways. He is the author of numerous cookbooks as well as The Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine and After the Hunt: Louisiana’s Authoritative Collection of Wild Game and Game Fish Cookery.
Chair’s Award for Institutional Support
Awarded in recognition of significant financial or programmatic support of the LEH’s mission and programs
2023 Chair’s Award for Institutional Support
Patrick F. Taylor Foundation
Thanks to a $900,000 grant from the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation, the LEH has established the Institute for Louisiana Culture and History, a statewide educational hub providing reliable, accessible Louisiana social studies resources to students and teachers. The institute will provide professional development workshops for social studies teachers statewide and add 300 new entries to the 64 Parishes online encyclopedia of Louisiana.
Champion of Culture Award
Awarded to individuals or organizations that have made a lasting mark through their support and promotion of Louisiana’s cultural resources
2023 Champion of Culture Award
Senator Gerald Boudreaux
During the 2022 Legislative Session, State Senator Gerald Boudreaux (District 24) championed the humanities and the work of the LEH.
His efforts led to significant state funding for the LEH and its statewide programs for the first time in ten years. He also introduced State Senate Resolution No. 97, which “commends the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities for its outstanding contributions to the state of Louisiana and to express sincere gratitude to the Prime Time Head Start programs for its lasting contributions to early childhood education in Lafayette Parish and in Louisiana.”
Documentary Photographer of the Year
Honors documentary photographers whose work captures Louisiana’s history, culture, and/or peoples.
2023 Documentary Photographer of the Year
Northeast Louisiana–based documentary photographer Jenny Ellerbe captures cultures ancient and modern in her color and black-and-white work. Whether documenting monumental earthworks built by Indigenous mound builders or tractor trailer–sized cotton bales awaiting transport, Ellerbe invites viewers to consider the power of place in the Louisiana landscape.
Humanities Book of the Year
Awarded to the book that best exemplifies scholarship on Louisiana topics or by Louisiana writers
2023 Humanities Book of the Year
Necropolis: Disease, Power, and Capitalism in the Cotton Kingdom by Kathryn Olivarius
In Necropolis (Harvard University Press), historian Kathryn Olivarius examines the intersection of race, wealth, and public health in 19th-century New Orleans, where yellow fever epidemics killed as many as 150,000 people.
Humanities Documentary Film of the Year
Awarded to the documentary film that best exemplifies scholarship on Louisiana topics or by Louisiana documentary filmmakers
2023 Humanities Documentary Film of the Year
Roots of Fire
directed and produced by Abby Berendt Lavoi and Jeremey Lavoi
In Roots of Fire filmmakers Abby Berendt Lavoi and Jeremey Lavoi explore the history and legacy of Cajun music through a look at contemporary musicians building new audiences—and new outlets—for the storied genre.
Light Up for Literacy Award
Honors individuals who have made significant and lasting contributions to literacy efforts in the state
Presented in partnership with the State Library of Louisiana’s Center for the Book
2023 Light Up for Literacy Award
Since 2018 literacy advocate Megan Holt has served as executive director of One Book, One New Orleans, a nonprofit that works to provide literacy resources for adults and encourage community reading and dialogue. As director, Holt also oversees New Orleans’s Words and Music Festival and organizes countless book giveaways benefiting adults and teenagers from all walks of life.
Lifetime Contributions to the Humanities Award
Honors citizens who have supported and been involved in public appreciation of issues central to the humanities
2023 Lifetime Contributions to the Humanities Awards
For more than three decades, Marianne Fisher-Giorlando has worked to increase understanding of the American criminal justice system.
As a professor at Grambling State University from 1986 to 2012, she taught thousands of students, developing new courses focused specifically on the history of incarceration in Louisiana. Fisher-Giorlando has worked directly with the staff of the Angolite, the award-winning, inmate-published magazine of the Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola), and now serves on the board of the Angola Museum, where she has worked tirelessly to present an accurate history of Louisiana’s prison system to both inmates and the general public.
Best in Digital Humanities
Recognizes publicly accessible projects produced in the previous two calendar years, including websites, virtual exhibitions, podcasts and other born-digital initiatives that bring new insights to and/or significantly improve the public’s understanding of the state, its history and/or its culture. Awarded biannually in odd-numbered years.
2023 Best in Digital Humanities
Freedom on the Move
Since its launch in 2019 the Freedom on the Move initiative has digitized more than 32,000 ads placed by enslavers seeking to locate enslaved fugitives or jailers hoping to recover reward bounties for men and women captured while fleeing enslavement. The publicly accessible database, which includes teacher resources and some 10,000 ads related to Louisiana, is a rich source of information on the history of slavery and resistance.
Click here for a full list of past Humanities Awards winners.
Summer Screenings at the Center
This July The Helis Foundation John Scott Center and the LEH will highlight recent Humanities Documentary Film of the Year award winners with Summer Screenings at the Center. Screenings will take place select Saturday afternoons in July at the center, and admission to the center and the screenings will be free.Read More
Institute for Louisiana Culture and History Announces Regional Workshops
This coming school year LEH will host four Institute for Louisiana Culture and History workshops for social studies K–12 educators around the state, with a focus 18th-century Louisiana history in alignment with LDOE’s new 6th-grade social studies standards.Read More
Four Sites Receive Grants to Host “Iron Sharpens Iron” Currents Program
LEH’s popular reading and discussion series, Currents, which includes the book club programs “Who Gets to Vote?” and “Witness to Change,” expands to include a film discussion program on “Iron Sharpens Iron.”Read More