Photo of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. receiving award from Dominique Raccah at OnWord2023

Renowned Author and Scholar on African American History Received Inspiring Writer Award

September 19, 2023 (CHICAGO) – The American Writers Museum held its annual benefit OnWord 2023 on September 11, where Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was awarded the Inspiring Writer Award. The event, co-chaired by Joan Clifford, Roger Baskes, and Donna Van Eekeren, raised $775,000 for the museum’s operations, including its youth education program.

Dr. Gates, a writer, producer, scholar, journalist, and institution builder, was presented with the award by AWM Trustee and Sourcebooks Publisher and CEO Dominique Raccah. “With all of his books, articles and documentaries, his power to reach broad audiences with messages that enrich our understanding of who we are as a nation, and how our roots connect us together, there are few Americans whose work has had so much reach and resonance,” said Raccah.

The Beyond the Page Award was presented to Raccah by Dennis Abboud, CEO of ReaderLink, a company that distributes more than 300 million books to consumers across the country every year. The award honors individuals whose work and life have helped to support and advance the recognition of writers. Sourcebooks, Raccah’s company, has been a champion for underrepresented voices and has fought against the proliferation of book bans occurring across the nation. Sourcebooks titles are among some of the most-banned books in the country. In addition to promoting underrepresented writers and fighting to arrest the growth of book bans, Sourcebooks continues to be an important donor of children’s books to schools and organizations around the country.

Karen Chee, an Emmy-nominated comedy writer for Late Night with Seth Meyers and a recurring panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!, nominated Geoffrey Yeh, a teacher at Bowditch Middle School in the San Mateo-Foster City School District, for the Teacher Inspiration Award. Each year, the AWM selects an established writer to nominate a teacher who they feel was inspirational to them.

The AWM culminates its educational work with the John Estey Student Writing Competition, which awards $10,000 in scholarships and prizes every year to the finalists. Teachers were invited to submit entries of any genre from 3rd-grade through 12th-grade students using the prompt, “Give me a song of hope and a world where I can sing it,” from Pauli Murray’s collection of poems titled Dark Testament. The high school winners are Anita Raj and Brooke Elwell, Eastern Camden County Regional High School, NJ; and Charity White, Carlisle School, VA. The middle school winners are Audriana Guidice, Lazar Middle School, NJ; Chloe Lind, Ashley Hall School, SC’ Raymond Cai, Keystone School, TX; and Taylor Haase, The Rhoades School, CA. The elementary school winners are Aydin Soner, Homeschool; Siaansh Singh Bhadauria, Deerfield Elementary School, CA; and Aiza Liya Vattoth, Forest Park Elementary, AR.

The AWM’s annual benefit OnWord 2023 was a success, honoring writers, teachers, and students who support a world where writers are elevated and celebrated for the importance they have in shaping our world.


About the American Writers Museum

The American Writers Museum is the first museum of its kind in the United States. The mission of the American Writers Museum is to engage the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, and our daily lives. The museum is located at 180 N. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60601, and offers something for every age group including permanent exhibits and special galleries highlighting America’s favorite works and the authors behind them. Tickets to the museum are $14 for adults, $9 for seniors, students, and teachers. Free for members and children ages 12 and under. To inquire about discounted rates for groups of 10 or more, including adults, student travel groups, and University students, visit or call 312-374-8770. Museum hours are Thursday – Monday 10 AM – 5 PM. For more information visit or call 312-374-8790.

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