Alabama Humanities awards event unveils new concept

In a groundbreaking concept for Alabama Humanities Foundation’s annual event, an inaugural class of fellows will be inducted, featuring a best-selling author, a financial executive and historical novelist, host of CNN’s American documentary series and the second African American to become a federal judge in Alabama.

The Oct. 2 Alabama Colloquium at Birmingham’s The Club will be moderated by National Public Radio’s Michel Martin of All Things Considered. The Colloquium gets under way at 11:30 a.m.

This noted group will come together in a live conversation from their diverse vantage points with a single, common thread. All are from Alabama.

“It should be a lively, provocative conversation among some of our most noted Alabamians, expertly moderated by internationally known radio personality Michel Martin,” said Trey Granger, chairman of the event and AHF’s Development Committee. “We wanted this to be an experience rather than a traditional awards event.”

Replacing the Alabama Humanities Award, the group’s highest honor, will be the Humanities Fellows. Past Alabama Humanities Award winners – living and posthumously – will be inducted into the fellowship as a group. “What an ideal way to honor accomplished people with Alabama ties who have shaped not only our state but the world around them by the work they do,” Granger said.

The 2017 Alabama Humanities Fellows are:

Kamau Bell, a self-described sociopolitical comedian and host of CNN’s United Shades of America, in-depth conversations with people from all walks of life across the country to better understand the challenges they face.

Bell is a critically acclaimed sociopolitical comedian and host of the Emmy Award nominated hit CNN docu-series United Shades of America. Season two premiered on April 30, 2017. Bell’s first book, The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6′ 4″, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian, came out on May 2, 2017.

Bell is the host of three podcasts: Denzel Washington is The Greatest Actor of All Time Period, Politically Re-Active, and Kamau Right Now! Kamau Right Now also airs live on NPR radio station KALW. Kamau’s first comedy special, Semi-Prominent Negro, was produced and directed by Morgan Spurlock, and the comedy album for the special was released on Kill Rock Stars. The New York Times called Kamau “the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years.”

Nimrod T. Frazer, former CEO and now Chairman Emeritus of Enstar Group Inc. and author of Send the Alabamians, an historic and personal perspective on Alabamians’ role in World War I.

A Wilcox County native, he holds degrees from Harvard Business School, Huntingdon College and Columbia University and has held leadership positions in financial companies across the country.

In the public service arena, he has served on various boards and foundations for sports, history and economic development.

He is an accomplished author, published in numerous publications as well as publishing his book, Send the Alabamians, World War I Fighters in the Rainbow Division.

Frazer is a decorated veteran, having served as platoon leader/lieutenant in the Korean Campaign, earning him the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action, US Presidential Unit Citation, ROK Presidential Unit Citation, Korean Campaign Ribbon with three Battle Stars, among others.

Cassandra King, college instructor, former reporter and a best-selling author.

King, author of five novels, a book of nonfiction, numerous short stories, magazine articles, and essays, was raised on a peanut farm in L.A. (Lower Alabama).

She has taught creative writing on the college level, conducted corporate writing seminars, and worked as a human interest reporter.

Her first novel, Making Waves, now in trade paperback, has been through numerous printings since its release in 1995. Her USA Today and NY Times best-selling second novel, The Sunday Wife, was a People magazine Page-Turner, a South Carolina’s Readers Circle choice, named as one of Book Sense’s top reading group selections, and chosen by the Nestle Corporation for a nation-wide campaign to promote reading groups. The Same Sweet Girls, also a New York Times best-seller, was a national number one Book Sense selection on release.

Both novels were nominated for SIBA’s Book of the Year award. A fourth novel, Queen of Broken Hearts, was a Literary Guild and Book-of-the-Month Club selection; and the fifth, Moonrise, an Okra Pick and a Southern Booksellers bestseller. She resides in the Low Country of South Carolina.

US District Judge Myron Thompson, who was the first African American assistant attorney general, first African American bar examiner and second African American to serve as federal judge.

Thompson graduated from Yale University and Yale Law School. He was nominated to a seat on the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama by President Jimmy Carter.

Later this year, Judge Thompson will be receiving the Yale Law School Award of merit for having made a substantial contribution to public service and the legal profession. In addition to many other accolades, he has received the National Public Service Award from Stanford Law School, recognizing that his “work on behalf of the public has had national impact.”

He earned the Mark De Wolfe Howe Award from Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review “for his Unyielding Commitment to Advancing the Personal Freedoms and Human Dignities of the American People.”

“By their very nature, the humanities are about enlightenment, understanding, learning, teaching and inspiring in their many different forms,” said Alabama Humanities Foundation Executive Director Armand DeKeyser. “This impressive group promises to embody all of those ideals and more as Ms. Martin explores their lives, backgrounds, careers and philosophies. It truly will be an experience none of us will soon forget.”

Also honored that day will be Alabama Humanities award winners and top teachers from across Alabama.

Charitable Organization to the Humanities goes to Vulcan Materials, and Lee Sentell, director of Alabama Tourism and a former AHF board member, will be honored with the Wayne Greenhaw Service Award to the Humanities.

Presentations will be made to outstanding teachers who won the Jenice Riley Memorial Scholarship. The $1,000 awards go to exceptional teachers in grades K-6, who incorporate innovative civics projects in their classrooms and schools. It was named in memory of the late daughter of former Alabama Gov. Bob and Patsy Riley, whose passion for teaching was her legacy.

Tickets and tables are on sale now and may be purchased online at or by calling AHF at 205-558-3992.