David Harris receives 2018 Governor’s Award in the Humanities

Managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute recognized for his civic leadership

David Harris

Credit: Heratch Ekmekjian CHHI Managing Director David Harris at a 2014 Charles Hamilton Houston Institute event.

In October, David J. Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School, received the Massachusetts Governor’s Award in the Humanities. Harris was one of four leaders recognized for their “public actions, grounded in an appreciation of the humanities, to enhance civic life in the Commonwealth.”

Gov. Charlie Baker recognized the recipients during an award ceremony held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on Oct. 28.

Harris was recognized for his work as chairman of Mass Humanities and as an ongoing member of the foundation’s Advisory Board. In 2005, Harris hatched the idea and helped to plan the re-enactment of the commemoration of the Selma march. Ten years ago, he created the Reading Frederick Douglass program and, in 2013, he worked on the Sesquicentennial of the end of the civil war, including the Foundation-funded play on Toussaint Louverture.

Harris joined the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute in 2006. He previously served as founding executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston. He has served on many boards, including Mass Humanities (as president 2006-2008), and he is currently the chair of the Massachusetts Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

The other 2018 honorees were Ellen S. Dunlap, president of the American Antiquarian Society, a national research library of American history; Nancy Netzer, a professor of art history at Boston College where she has served as the founding director of the McMullen Museum of Art since 1990; and David Tebaldi, who retired as executive director of Mass Humanities this fall, having overseen the funding and implementation of thousands of programs that bring the humanities to the Massachusetts public. In 2017, Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African &  African American Research at Harvard University, received the Governor’s Award.