2023 Alabama Humanities Fellows announced

Acclaimed scholars Imani Perry and David Mathews to be honored at the Alabama Colloquium on October 23.

Birmingham, AL | August 16, 2023

AHA News Alabama Humanities Honors
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BIRMINGHAM / August 16, 2023 — A pair of Alabama natives, widely acclaimed for their insights into American history and democracy, will return home this fall to be celebrated as 2023 Alabama Humanities Fellows.

On October 23, the Alabama Humanities Alliance (AHA) will honor Imani Perry, Ph.D., and David Mathews, Ph.D., at the Alabama Colloquium, presented by Regions. The highlight of the event will feature CNN anchor and Prattville native Kaitlan Collins in a wide-ranging conversation with the honorees. The conversation will explore how examining our past can offer healing and strength for Alabama’s communities today.

The Alabama Colloquium annually offers a chance to celebrate the humanities’ impact in Alabama, honor individuals who use the humanities to make our state and nation a better place to live, and raise funds to support AHA’s statewide programming.

Following the event, AHA will offer a limited-capacity listening tour of Wallace House, in Shelby County. Built in 1841, the Wallace House was once part of a 5,000-acre cotton plantation, which was worked by nearly 100 enslaved people. Today, descendants of the home’s White landowners and enslaved Black population work together to examine their shared history and create a space for mutual understanding and reconciliation.




Imani Perry, a Birmingham native, is a scholar of law, literature, history, and cultural studies, as well as a creative nonfiction author. In 2022, she won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation.

Perry has written five other books, including Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry, which won the 2019 PEN Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography, and May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem, winner of the 2019 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Nonfiction.

Perry is a professor in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences and at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, one of the world’s leading centers for interdisciplinary exploration. She has bachelor’s degrees from Yale in American studies and literature, along with two terminal degrees from Harvard — a J.D. and a Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization. Outside of academia, Perry is a contributing writer for The Atlantic, where she pens a weekly newsletter that frequently reckons with the past, “Unsettled Territory.”

David Mathews, a Grove Hill native, has dedicated his life to building community and promoting democracy. Mathews earned an undergraduate degree in history from the University of Alabama and a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. Returning to UA, Mathews both taught history and made it. He served as a history professor from 1965-1980, became the youngest president of a major university when he began his UA tenure at age 33, and presided over the integration of the Crimson Tide’s football program under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Mathews also served as U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in President Gerald Ford’s administration, where he worked on restoring public confidence in government. And he spent four decades as president and CEO of the Kettering Foundation, focusing the nonprofit’s work on engaging citizens in the democratic process.

Mathews’ legacy is evidenced in Alabama at the David Mathews Center for Civic Life, which seeks to strengthen civic engagement statewide.


Kaitlan Collins, a Prattville native, is a journalist and anchor of CNN’s primetime show, “The Source with Kaitlan Collins.” Previously, Collins was co-anchor and chief correspondent of “CNN This Morning.” Prior to that, she served as CNN’s chief White House correspondent, based in Washington, D.C.

Collins earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and political science from the University of Alabama.


About the Alabama Humanities Alliance
Founded in 1974, the nonprofit Alabama Humanities Alliance serves as a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. AHA promotes impactful storytelling, lifelong learning and civic engagement. We provide Alabamians with opportunities to connect with our shared cultures and to see each other as fully human. Through our grantmaking, we help scholars, communities and cultural nonprofits create humanities-rich projects that are accessible to all Alabamians — from literary festivals and documentary films to museum exhibitions and research collections. Learn more at alabamahumanities.org.