Muhammad Ali, Nas to Receive Du Bois Medal at Harvard

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will also be honored.

Photo via AP

Photo via AP

So the greatest boxer of all-time, the greatest MC of all-time, and a U.S. Attorney General walk into Harvard…

This year’s recipients of the school’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal include Muhammad Ali, Nasir “Nas” Jones, and Eric Holder, who will be honored Wednesday at a ceremony on campus followed by a panel discussion. Ali, who is battling Parkinson’s disease, will appear remotely via video link.

The Du Bois Medal is Harvard’s highest honor in African American Studies, awarded to those who have made significant contributions to African American culture and life. Du Bois, who was born in Great Barrington, helped found the NAACP in 1909 and wrote extensively about racial injustice in America.

Two years ago, Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute and Hiphop Archive jointly established the Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellowship, in recognition for Nas’ multiplatinum career and lyrical excellence. The fellowship is awarded to those who “demonstrate exceptional capacity for productive scholarship and exceptional creative ability in the arts, in connection with Hiphop.”

“Nas is more than an MC. He’s my favorite writer, and it’s to their credit that highbrow institutions like Harvard are already recognizing hip-hop luminaries like him while they’re still actively making remarkable music,” DigBoston news and features editor Chris Faraone, who penned liner notes for Columbia Records’ Nas: The Box Set, tells Boston magazine.

“Furthermore, if there’s one region outside of New York on which Nas has left an indelible stylistic mark, it’s New England, where traces of his unique brand of lyrical urban journalism can be heard in rappers ranging from Reks to Slaine,” Faraone says.

Other recipients of the 2015 Du Bois Medal include Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund; Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments and chairman of the board of Ariel Investment Trust; Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the first black woman to enroll in the University of Georgia; and artist Carrie Mae Weems.