About Vermont Humanities

Vermont Humanities Wins Award for Best Public Programming

Congressman John Lewis (center) with Woodstock Union High School students in Burlington in October, 2019

The late Congressman John Lewis (center) with Woodstock Union High School students in Burlington in October, 2019. His March Trilogy co-author, Andrew Aydin, is at right in the back row.

MONTPELIER, VT— Vermont Humanities recently won one of four 2020 Schwartz Prizes for best public humanities programming in the U.S. for Vermont Reads 2019: March: Book One. The award is given by the Federation of State Humanities Councils at its annual conference, which was held online in November.

“We are deeply honored to have been selected for this prize, and proud to continue John Lewis’ legacy of making good trouble,” said Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup, Executive Director of Vermont Humanities, a nonprofit based in Montpelier. “Our work with March: Book One helped to change the conversation about structural racism in Vermont and build a core group of community organizations committed to antiracism work.”

2020 marks the 18th year of the Vermont Reads program, in which Vermont Humanities invites people across the state to read the same book and participate in a wide variety of community activities. This year, Vermont communities are reading The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas’ bestselling Young Adult novel about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Ninety-eight Vermont communities developed programs around the graphic novel March: Book One by civil rights icon John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell in 2019. Every community held at least three events centered around the themes in the book, which describes Lewis’ childhood in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the nonviolent sit-ins he joined at lunch counters in Nashville as a means of undermining segregation.

Vermont Reads 2019 culminated in a visit by Congressman Lewis and Andrew Aydin to the Flynn Center in Burlington in October 2019. They spoke to 4200 people over three sold-out shows, including two matinees for Vermont schoolchildren. The events were the largest in the history of Vermont Humanities, which sponsored 882 talks, book discussions, literacy programs, and other humanities events in 2019.

In a press release distributed by the Federation for State Humanities Councils, a judge for the award said that Vermont Reads 2019 “encouraged communities to thoughtfully address systemic racism while inspiring hope.”

The other winner of the 2020 Schwartz Prize for public programming was California Humanities for their Library Innovation Lab Project. Humanities Texas and Humanities Washington were also awarded special Schwartz Prizes for programming in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Learn more about Lewis and Aydin’s visit to Burlington, and watch a Vermont PBS recording of their public talk at https://bit.ly/lewis-aydin.

About Vermont Humanities

A statewide nonprofit organization founded in 1974, Vermont Humanities seeks to engage all Vermonters in the world of ideas, foster a culture of thoughtfulness, and inspire a lifelong love of reading and learning. Learn more at www.vermonthumanities.org