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Andrew Delbanco is named this year's Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities

Andrew Delbanco, professor of American Studies at Columbia University, will deliver the 2022 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities.
Michaelangelo's Photography
Andrew Delbanco, professor of American Studies at Columbia University, will deliver the 2022 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities.

Andrew Delbanco, author and professor of American Studies at Columbia University, will deliver this year's Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities.

Established by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1972, the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities is considered the highest honor the federal government gives for "distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities," according to the NEH.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the honorary lecture series.

"Steeped in the long history of American thought, Andrew Delbanco is one of the nation's foremost cultural critics and public intellectuals," said NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe in a news release.

A renowned scholar of American literary, religious and cultural history, Delbanco will deliver his lecture titled, "The Question of Reparations: Our Past, Our Present, Our Future," this October at President Abraham Lincoln's Cottage in Washington, D.C.

In his book, The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America's Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War, Delbanco explores how the U.S. confronted slavery before the Civil War.

During a 2019 interview with Morning Edition, Delbanco explained why he favors reparations for African Americans in some form.

" We're all in this society together. We want to live in a humane society where people respect one another as human beings. And in order to achieve that, we need to make significant further progress on the race problem in this country. But we want to be in a decent society. And part of the decency is to recognize our history and to try to make, in a moral sense, reparations for it," Delbanco told NPR.

Having taught at Columbia University for nearly 37 years, Delbanco focuses his curriculum on the history of American education, colonial and classic American literature as well as the past and present culture in America.

His essays on topics such as American literature, contemporary issues in higher education and reparations have appeared frequently in numerous publications, including The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Delbanco holds an A.B., M.A. and a Ph.D. in English all from Harvard University.

"I am deeply touched by this high honor. [This honor] affords me an opportunity to bring the humanities to bear on a complex and demanding question that has long confronted our country," Delbanco said in a release.

"I have always believed that the study of the past must prove its value by helping us reflect on the challenges of the present and the future," he added.

The Jefferson Lecture is the Endowment's most widely attended public event, according to NEH.

Past Jefferson Lecturers include the late author Toni Morrison, philosopher Martha Nussbaum, filmmaker and historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and actress Anna Deavere Smith.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.