Illinois Humanities’ 2023 Public Humanities Awards to Celebrate Illinois Cultural Leaders in-person on May 17th

For Immediate Release: March 13, 2023

Press Releases

Read Time 9 minutes
March 13, 2023

Contact: Sarah Sommers at | 773-251-4772

The honorees include librarians, a journalist, and an educator who are transforming communities across Illinois through the public humanities.

CHICAGO, March 13, 2023

On May 17, 12:00 CST, Illinois Humanities will be celebrating this year’s Public Humanities Awards and presenting the Beacon Award to Tracie D. Hall, Executive Director of the American Library Association and a national champion for basic and digital literacy skills and equitable access to information for all.

In addition to Hall, three Illinois Humanities community partners who exemplify the humanities in action across the state will receive Public Humanities Awards: Chicago radio producer, journalist, and activist Stephanie Manriquez, Executive Director of Contratiempo and Executive Producer of Lumpen Radio; Rebecca Ginsburg, Director of the Education Justice Project at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Co-Founder of the Illinois Coalition for Higher Education in Prison; and librarian, historian, and archivist, Alyson Thompson, Library Director of the Marshall Public Library in Marshall, Illinois.

“Advocating for access and inclusion – through libraries, through the arts, through economic and community development – is not something I took on, it was something I was born into. Equity and fairness were central values in my family. Coming to Chicago twenty years ago gave me the opportunity to work alongside people across the state who understand that the arts and humanities are strengthened to the degree that they are accessible and reflective of all our histories and experiences,” Hall said. “It is both humbling and energizing to be honored by the community of thinkers, makers, and doers that I so deeply respect and whose work has guided and anchored mine.”

The honorees highlight the profound importance of stories – and access to them – at a time when the question of whose stories get told is at the center of a national conversation.

“These four individuals reflect the best of Illinois’ creativity and hunger for knowledge, and I’m glad to see their stories uplifted by Illinois Humanities,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “All of these honorees have dedicated themselves to educating and enriching the public at a time when so many are taking refuge in ignorance, and I commend them for it.”

The annual Public Humanities Awards event celebrates people who have made an indelible impact on the state of Illinois through their work and support of the humanities. This year’s awardees join other leaders recognized by Illinois Humanities since 1984, including Eve Ewing, Dawoud Bey, Jeanne Gang, and Tonika Lewis Johnson.

“I can’t think of a more timely and impactful group of honorees to acknowledge this year,” said Gabrielle Lyon, executive director of Illinois Humanities. “At a time when books are being banned, histories are being censored, and people who are incarcerated are kept from reading, these awardees have worked to create and protect the ‘windows and mirrors’ we all need to be part of a just society .”

Illinois Humanities will host the awards in-person for the first time in four years at City Hall/Recess, an event space located in Chicago’s West Loop. The event will provide a chance for attendees to meet the honorees, learn about how the humanities are strengthening the state, and celebrate in community with fellow humanists in a post-awards reception..

The event is co-chaired by Illinois Humanities Board Members Mea Konopasek, Vice President of Commercial Banking at BMO Harris Bank, and civic leader Jennifer Wirtz. Early lead sponsors of the 2023 Public Humanities Awards include Northwestern University’s Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Chicago, the American Library Association, and Susan Eleuterio and Tom Sourlis.

Established in 1984, Illinois Humanities’ Public Humanities Awards ceremony celebrates people who have made an indelible impact on our state through their work in and support of the humanities. The event serves as Illinois Humanities’ cornerstone annual fundraiser. All contributions support Illinois Humanities’ mission to provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration.

The 2023 Public Humanities Awards will take place on May 17, 12:00 CST, at City Hall Chicago, 838 W. Kinzie, Chicago, IL 60642. A livestream will be available for those unable to attend in person. Register to attend and contribute a donation at:

There are additional sponsorship opportunities available. For more information about sponsorships, contact Morven Higgins at


Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community, and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.


Tracie D. Hall is the tenth Executive Director of the American Library Association (ALA), the oldest and largest library association in the world with over 50,000 members serving library and educational institutions throughout and beyond the US. The first Black woman to helm ALA in its nearly 150-year history, Hall has served in numerous library and arts leadership positions nationwide.

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Her former posts include Culture Program Director at The Joyce Foundation where she was recognized for creating numerous programs to advance racial inclusion in arts administration and equitable funding for arts institutions including the Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project; Deputy Commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events where she oversaw the visual and performing arts, film, and community market programs and received citations for her work to expand arts access and neighborhood outreach; Vice President of Strategy and Organizational Development at Queens Library where during her tenure she founded the NYC Early Learning Network; Community Investment Strategist and Chicago Community Investor for the Boeing Company’s Global Corporate Citizenship division; Assistant Dean of Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science; Community Librarian at Hartford Public Library where she curated the NEH-funded Festival of Caribbean Literature with the Connecticut Center for the Book and where then mayor, Eddie Perez, designated February 13 as “Tracie Hall Day” to acknowledge her service to the city of Hartford; Youth Services Coordinator at Seattle Public Library where she developed the long-running SCRIBES youth creative writing program for the Richard Hugo House; and other library, non-profit, and public sector roles across the country.

Holding dual bachelor’s degrees from University of California Santa Barbara, and master’s degrees from the Yale University School of International and Area Studies and the University of Washington School of Information, Hall’s work in library and arts administration has focused on advancing early and adult literacy, expanding broadband access, advocating for arts and educational programs and services for people who are incarcerated, and increasing socio-economic mobility in communities that have had limited educational or employment opportunities. In 2022, Hall became only the second librarian to be honored with a National Book Foundation Award for Lifetime Achievement. Most recently, she was named the 2023 recipient of the Literacy Leader Award by scaleLIT. A native of south central Los Angeles, Hall lives in Chicago where she makes time to serve on the boards of various arts and community-based organizations.


Stephanie Manriquez is an award-winning writer, radio producer, journalist, and teaching artist with a passion for highlighting social justice issues affecting Latino communities. Stephanie sees storytelling as a radical act for the Latinx community and has committed herself to develop spaces for diverse voices to be heard, with a larger goal of increasing representation on public and alternative radio. As a journalist, she consistently speaks on topics that most affect her communities and as an educator, she is passionate about mentoring the next generation of Latinx media makers, helping them to become civically minded and artistically innovative. Stephanie is an alumna of Illinois Humanities’ Odyssey Project.

She is the Executive Director at Contratiempo, a literary organization and Illinois Humanities’ grantee partner that highlights the cultural contributions of the Spanish-speaking diaspora through programs presented as a printed magazine, digital publication, airwaves, stage and workshops. As the Director of Lumpen Radio, Stephanie serves as the lead producer for the community radio station and highlights multilingual content through their leadership of the Communities Amplified radio initiative. Her previous work includes leading the National Museum of Mexican Art’s youth journalism program and as a member of the Social Justice News Nexus Fellowship at Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism, as a reporter and as a youth mentor. She was recognized in 2020 by the Field and MacArthur Foundations as one of 11 “Leaders for a New Chicago.”


Rebecca Ginsburg is a co-founder and current director of the Education Justice Project (EJP), a unit of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Through its educational programs, publications, and outreach, EJP supports higher education in prison and educational opportunities for individuals who were formerly incarcerated. She holds joint appointments in Landscape Architecture and Education Policy, with courtesy appointments in Afro-American Studies, African Studies, and Anthropology. Rebecca is a grantee partner of Illinois Humanities’ Envisioning Justice program and has also lent her support and expertise to the project.

Rebecca received her Bachelors degree in English from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, her JD from the University of Michigan Law School, and a PhD in Architectural History from the University of California at Berkeley. Her publications include Critical Perspectives on Teaching in Prison (Routledge 2019). She is currently working on a prison abolition reader (Lynne Rienner 2023). Rebecca has been a resident of Urbana-Champaign for 18 years. She shares a home with her husband, William Sullivan, and daughters Anna (15) and Isabella (12).


Alyson Thompson is Library Director for Marshall Public Library (a longtime grantee partner of Illinois Humanities and host to many Road Scholars Speakers Bureau presentations) as well as the Marshall Area Public Library District, Friend of the Library, and Local Coordinator for IRS Tax Aide assistance. A strong advocate for preservation of local history, Mrs. Thompson has helped raise funds to preserve local stories, photos, newspapers, and most recently to acquire local Clark County Genealogy Library. Her professional work includes publications to library journals, educational workshops, building renovations, and host to nationally acclaimed exhibits. Her passion for local preservation can also be seen outside of her employment as she seeks to renovate existing local housing and beautify the community.

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