National Endowment for the Arts Statement on the Death of 2010 National Medal of Arts Recipient Harper Lee

black and white photo of Harper Lee
Harper Lee (Bettmann/Corbis)
It is with great sadness that the National Endowment for the Arts acknowledges the death of Harper Lee, recipient of a 2010 National Medal of Arts for her contribution to American literature with her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird. At the ceremony, President Obama said, “We can think of the novels that have chronicled the American experience -- from the streets of Newark to the courts of Alabama.  How many young people have come to see the senseless cruelty of racism -- and the importance of standing up for what’s right -- through the eyes of a girl named Scout?” Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has also been a part of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read since the program’s beginning, with more than 140 communities across the nation sharing the iconic book with their neighbors. When Staten Island OutLOUD chose the book for their Big Read program, they found it “a timely focus for community conversation.” Executive Director Beth Gorrie said, “[A] novel puts you in a different world. You're certainly going to be looking at things through the prism of your own experience, but you're deliberately taking yourself into another world, another community, another set of characters from what's present in your daily life.” You can read more from our interview with Gorrie here and learn more about To Kill a Mockingbird at

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