Imani Perry, a Birmingham native, is a scholar of law, literature, history, and cultural studies, as well as a creative nonfiction author. She was also just named a 2023 MacArthur Fellow.

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. The book was also selected, in 2022, as the inagural title of the Birmingham Reads Project, a citywide literary event presented by the Birmingham chapter of PEN America. 

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 teaches and writes about women, gender and sexuality, African American studies, and more. 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 also a contributing writer for The Atlantic, where she pens a weekly newsletter that frequently reckons with the past, "Unsettled Territory." 

"We reveal values in where we look and how we tell. In this unsettling time, we have to be open to allowing our values to be challenged, and wise enough to transform them when appropriate." — Imani Perry 


David Mathews 

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. 

Today, Mathews is president of the Center for Citizenship, Community, and Democracy. His legacy is evidenced in Alabama at the David Mathews Center for Civic Life, which seeks to strengthen civic engagement statewide. 

"Changing the way people talk can change the way they relate to each other and their problems — and that can eventually change a community." — David Mathews


Kaitlan Collins — scheduled moderator

NOTE: Due to a last-minute assignment to Israel to cover the ongoing war in the Middle East, Kaitlan Collins will not be able to serve as our moderator. We are thankful that NPR's Priska Neely will fill in. Her bio is below.

Kaitlan Collins, a Prattville native, is a journalist and anchor of CNN's primetime show, "The Source with Kaitlan Collins." She will serve as moderator of the 2023 Alabama Colloquium, engaging our honorees in a thought-provoking conversation on their work and the power of the humanities. 

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. Since 2018, Collins has been included in Mediate's annual list of the "Most Influential People in News Media" and Forbes has also included Collins on its "30 Under 30: Media" list. 

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


Priska Neely — new moderator

Priska Neely, a journalist and leader in public media, will now lead the marquee conversation with our 2023 Alabama Humanities Fellows, David Mathews and Imani Perry. 

Neely is an insightful journalist and a sharp, engaging interviewer. She currently serves as managing editor of the Gulf States Newsroom, an innovative collaboration among National Public Radio and member stations in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. She leads a team of reporters who cover issues like health equity and environmental justice across the region. In 2022, she was nameed Editor of the Year by the Public Media Journalists Association. 

In addition to her previous roles at NPR as a journalist with Talk of the Nation and Weekend All Things Considered, Neely has earned national recognition for her investigative work at KPCC in Los Angeles and at Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. In 2022, she was named Editor of the Year by the Public Media Journalists Association. 


2022: Bryan Stevenson, Rep. John Lewis
Dr. Marquita Davis, Fred Gray, Howell Raines, Jody Singer

2018: Dr. Martha Bouyer, Nall Hollis, Peggy Wallace Kennedy, Gina Locklear, Bobby McAlpine, Mary Margaret Pettway, Margot Shaw, Joyce Vance, Dr. Andrew Westmoreland
2017: W. Kamau Bell, Nimrod Frazer Sr., Cassandra King, Judge Myron Thompson
2016: Ben & Luanne Russell
2015: Cynthia Tucker Haynes
2014: Betty McMahon
2013: Bobby Horton
2012: Dr. E.O. Wilson
2011: Dr. Elaine Hughes
2010: Edgar Welden
2009: Dr. Bill Carter
2008: Sen. Richard Shelby
2007: Jack Warner
2006: Dr. Bert Hitchcock

2005: Dr. Neal Berte & Joe McInnes
2004: Sen. Howell Heflin
2003: Dr. Harry Philpott
2002: Harper Lee
2001: Dr. Ed Bridges
2000: Kathryn Tucker Windham & Dr. James Yarbrough
1998: Emory Cunningham
1997: Odessa Woolfolk
1996: Gov. Albert Brewer
1995: Suzanne Wolfe
1994: Philip Morris
1993: Dr. Leah Rawls Atkins
1992: Judge C.J. Coley
1991: Dr. Wayne Flynt
1990: Dr. Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton
1989: Winton M. Blount

From the celebration of our 2022 Alabama Humanities Fellows, February 28, 2022, in Montgomery. A standing ovation for Bryan Stevenson (left) following his conversation with moderator Michel Martin of NPR. 

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