Legendary soul singer Gladys Knight will be honored with the 2021 National Medal of Arts at a ceremony taking place at the White House today, reports CBS News. The National Medal of Arts is the nation's highest award for advancing the arts in America.
For the first time in his presidency, President Joe Biden will be awarding the medals.
Given in conjunction with National Endowment for the Arts, other honorees for the prestigious honor include Mindy Kaling, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Bruce Springsteen, Jose Feliciano, Vera Wang, Fred Eychaner, Joan Shigekawa, Judith Francisca Baca and Antonio Martorell-Cardona.
The Billie Holiday Theatre and the International Association of Blacks in Dance will also receive the medal as institutions that have significantly contributed to the arts.
Affectionately known as “The Empress of Soul,” Knight began her illustrious career in the late 1950s with her family group Gladys Knight & the Pips along with her brother Merald "Bubba" Knight and cousins William Guest and Edward Patten.
She has recorded two number-one Billboard Hot 100 singles, the classics "Midnight Train to Georgia" and "That's What Friends Are For,” 11 number one R&B singles, and 6 number one R&B albums. A seven-time Grammy Award winner—four as a solo artist and three with the Pips, Knight was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame along with the Pips in 2001.
Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson, Ph.D.,the Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts lauded this year’s inductees.
“The National Medal of Arts recipients have helped to define and enrich our nation’s cultural legacy through their lifelong passionate commitment. We are a better nation because of their contributions. Their work helps us see the world in different ways. It inspires us to reach our full potential and recognize our common humanity. I join the President in congratulating and thanking them,” Jackson said in a statement.
Also at the ceremony, Biden will award the 2021 National Humanities Medals to several authors. Established in 1997, the award “honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities and broadened our citizens’ engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy, and other humanities, subjects."
Johnnetta Betsch Cole, the first female African-American president of Spelman College; acclaimed historian Earl Lewis, Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson; Henrietta Mannwill, a Native American scholar; and Native America Calling, a call-in public radio program will also receive the award.
Also, authors Colson Whitehead, Amy Tan, Richard Blanco, Tara Westover, Ann Patchett, and Walter Isaacson will receive the medal.
With the exception of Feliciano, all honorees are slated to attend the ceremony.
The National Humanities Medals will be held on today, Tuesday, March 21, 2023, at 4:30 p.m. ET in an East Room ceremony at the White House.
The event will be live-streamed at www.whitehouse.gov/live.