Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson to speak as part of Johns Hopkins' 40th annual MLK Jr. Commemoration

Wilkerson will give keynote remarks on Tuesday, Jan. 11; MLK Jr. Community Service Awards will be presented on Friday, Jan. 14; advance registration required

Johns Hopkins Medicine's 40th annual celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., will take place next week, including a keynote speech by Isabel Wilkerson—winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal—on Tuesday and the annual MLK Jr. Community Service Awards Ceremony on Friday.

Photo of author Isabel Wilkerson

Image caption: Isabel Wilkerson

Wilkerson is the author of the critically acclaimed, New York Times bestsellers The Warmth of Other Suns, and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. "Wilkerson's work," in the words of The American Prospect magazine, "is the missing puzzle piece of our country's history."

Her remarks Tuesday will be followed by a fireside chat with Sherita Hill Golden, vice president and chief diversity officer for Johns Hopkins Medicine. The event begins at noon; advance registration for the virtual event is required.

The Warmth of Other Suns won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2010, among other honors, and was named to more than 30 best of the year lists, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker and The Washington Post. TIME Magazine named it one of the "10 Best Non-Fiction Books" of the decade. The New York Times Magazine named Warmth to its list of the best nonfiction books of all time.

Her new book, Caste: The Origins of our Discontents, was published in August 2020 to critical acclaim and became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. Dwight Garner of The New York Times called it, "An instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far." Oprah Winfrey chose it as her 2020 Summer/Fall book club selection, declaring it "the most important book" she had ever selected.

Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for her deeply humane narrative writing while serving as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times in 1994, making her the first Black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African American to win for individual reporting. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded Wilkerson the National Humanities Medal for "championing the stories of an unsung history."

The Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration, founded by pioneer in cardiac surgery and civil rights Levi Watkins Jr., has enlightened and inspired the Johns Hopkins community for four decades. Past speakers include Maya Angelou, Harry Belafonte Jr., Stevie Wonder, James Earl Jones, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Jesse Jackson, Danny Glover, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King.

On Friday, during the annual MLK Jr. Community Service Awards Ceremony, Johns Hopkins will honor eight colleagues and one high school student for demonstrating Dr. King's values of service, equality and selflessness through their volunteerism:

  • Barbara Bates-Hopkins, senior community engagement coordinator, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Todd Dousa, emergency management manager, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center
  • Aleesha Eccleston, student, Johns Hopkins University Summer Jobs Program
  • Phoebe Evans Letocha, collections management archivist, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Zhiling Li, network engineer III, Johns Hopkins Health System
  • Michael Preston, director of community affairs, The Johns Hopkins University
  • Charles Reuland, executive vice president/chief operating officer, The Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • Nanette Smith, program lead, The Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Daniel Washington, surgical technician, The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Also on Friday, Denis Antoine, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the School of Medicine, will be recognized with the Levi Watkins Jr. Ideals Award. Antoine "embodies the principles behind the award through his work supporting underserved populations impacted by substance use and mental health disorders," wrote Paul B. Rothman, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Kevin W. Sowers, president of the Johns Hopkins Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine, in a message to the Hopkins Medicine community on Friday.

Advance registration is required for Friday's event.

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