Our Work

Current Awardees

The Humanities Awards

Each year the LEH seeks public nominations for six of the Humanities Awards—Humanities Book of the Year, Documentary Film of the Year, Museum Exhibition of the Year, 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 remaining categories are selected by special committees made up of local experts in the field and LEH staff and board members. 

Nominations for the 2022 Humanities Awards are open now. Click here for details on the available categories and submitting nominations. 


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

2021 Humanist of the Year

John T. Scott (posthumous award)

2021 Humanist of the Year John T. Scott was a prolific artist, teacher, and visionary, whose work exists at the intersection of art, history, and culture.

Named a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow in 1992, Scott is perhaps best known for his vibrantly colored kinetic steel sculptures and the longevity and impact of his more than 40-year tenure as a teacher, mentor, and colleague at Xavier University in New Orleans. Scott is the first individual to receive the Humanist of the Year award posthumously.

The LEH houses the largest private collection of Scott’s art, and in late 2021 will be opening The Helis Foundation John Scott Center as an avenue for showcasing and utilizing his work to develop integrated arts and humanities programming.

Chair’s Award for Institutional Support

Awarded in recognition of significant financial or programmatic support of the LEH’s mission and programs

2021 Chair’s Award for Institutional Support

Entergy Charitable Foundation

The Entergy Charitable Foundation has been a longtime, valued donor to the LEH with total contributions topping $380,000. They have supported all aspects of the LEH’s work, including public programs such as 64 Parishes, the annual Bright Lights Awards, and PRIME TIME Family Reading.

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

2021 Champion of Culture Award

Carol Bebelle

Carol Bebelle is the cofounder of Ashé Cultural Arts Center, a New Orleans–based organization that hosts and supports programs, activities, and creative works emphasizing the contributions of people of African descent.

A recognized community leader dedicated to the arts and humanities, Bebelle was the longtime director of Ashé and oversaw its expansion from a once-vacant property to a large, modern, welcoming complex that includes performance spaces, art galleries, and community housing. Bebelle, a published poet and writer, has mentored and supported multiple generations of artists, musicians, poets, performers, and activists.

Humanities Book of the Year

Awarded to the book that best exemplifies scholarship on Louisiana topics or by Louisiana writers

2021 Humanities Book of the Year

Katrina: A History, 1915–2015 by Andy Horowitz

The 2021 Humanities Book of the Year is Katrina: A History, 1915–2015 by environmental historian Andy Horowitz. In this in-depth look at one of America’s most destructive disasters, Horowitz, who holds the Paul and Debra Gibbons Professorship at Tulane University, finds the seeds of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath nurtured over the course of the preceding century.

Humanities Documentary Film of the Year

Awarded to the documentary film that best exemplifies scholarship on Louisiana topics or by Louisiana documentary filmmakers

2021 Humanities Documentary Film of the Year

Professor Longhair: Rugged and Funky 
directed by Joshua Bagnall and produced by Pat Byrd, Nadine Byrd, Alex Byrd, Chris Lee, Elsa Kern, Tom Roche, Yan Miles, and Spencer Leven

Director Joshua Bagnall’s Professor Longhair: Rugged and Funky captures the life and music of New Orleans cultural icon Professor Longhair, who was born Henry Roeland Byrd in Bogalusa, Louisiana, in 1918. Through interviews with friends, family, and fellow musicians, including the late greats Allen Toussaint and Dr. John, the film goes beyond the music to explore Longhair’s hardships and triumphs.

Best in Digital Humanities

Biennial award that recognizes publicly accessible digital humanities 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.

2021 Best in Digital Humanities

Slow Burn Season 4: David Duke, podcast produced by Slate and hosted by Josh Levin

In six hour-long episodes, Slate’s Slow Burn podcast and host Josh Levin explore the life of notorious white supremacist and former Louisiana politician, David Duke. Levin, a New Orleans native, expertly untangles the messy strands of Duke’s self-promoting, self-aggrandizing past and traces his rise from a political outlier to a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives representing the state’s 81st District.

Throughout, in interviews with political operatives, constituents, and activists, Levin probes the question of what can happen when white supremacy goes mainstream.

Documentary Photographer of the Year

Honors documentary photographers whose work captures Louisiana’s history, culture, and/or peoples.

2021 Documentary Photographer of the Year

Abdul Aziz

This year’s recipient, photographer Abdul Aziz, specializes in documenting human conflict. With past experience working in Somalia and the Gaza Strip, Aziz has more recently trained his lens on the modern-day struggle for civil rights and racial justice in Louisiana.

His photos of the tense scenes that accompanied the removal of Confederate monuments in New Orleans in 2017 and of Black Lives Matter protests across the state in the last three years document an often unflattering—but always critically important—moment in contemporary Louisiana life.

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

2021 Light Up for Literacy Award

Dr. Pat Austin

Over the course of her more than 40-year career as an educator, Dr. Pat Austin has helped develop the literacy teaching skills of thousands of Louisiana educators. After 16 years as an elementary school teacher, Austin earned a PhD in curriculum and instruction from the University of New Orleans, where she went on to serve as a faculty member for 26 years.

She served as curator of UNO’s Children’s and Young Adult Library for two decades, and has mentored countless student library volunteers and librarians in training.

Lifetime Contributions to the Humanities Award

Honors citizens who have supported and been involved in public appreciation of issues central to the humanities

2021 Lifetime Contributions to the Humanities Awards

Frank de Caro (posthumous award)

Frank de Caro was a nationally renowned folklorist who was particularly active in Louisiana. De Caro served first chairman and a past president of the Louisiana Folklore society and in these roles and through his writing was instrumental in developing today’s vibrant Louisiana folklife community.

His last book, Downtown Mardi Gras: New Carnival Practices in Post-Katrina New Orleans, was released shortly after his passing this spring of COVID-19.

Click here for a full list of past Humanities Awards winners.