When Harry Belafonte accepted the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 2014, he recounted how the racial and cultural insensitivities he witnessed on film screens as a child began his “rebellion against injustice and human distortion and hate.” He also quoted his hero, Paul Robeson, by saying, “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. They are civilization’s radical voice,” and encouraged his audience to use their power and skills for positive change. Belafonte followed in the footsteps of Danny Kaye and Audrey Hepburn as the third UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador to receive this special Academy Award. Next year, a fourth will be added to the list, as performer and philanthropist Danny Glover has been chosen as the newest honoree.
Along with honorary award recipients Samuel L. Jackson, Elaine May, and Liv Ullmann, Glover is set to be recognized at the upcoming 12th annual Governors Awards. The 74-year-old has earned this accolade for his “decades-long advocacy for justice and human rights,” which “reflects his dedication to recognizing our shared humanity on and off the screen.” With a career spanning four decades, Glover has not only built a reputation as a dependable craftsman but also as a devoted peace activist.
Glover, a native Californian, was raised by parents who were active NAACP members. As an adult, he joined the Black Students’ Union at San Francisco State University and helped organize a months-long strike that led to the United States’ first ever School of Ethnic Studies. He has since advocated passionately for a great number of causes, from substance abuse and AIDS awareness to the preservation of African culture.
Glover trained extensively as a stage actor before making his film debut in 1979’s “Escape from Alcatraz.” He has gone on to appear in over 100 features, including “The Color Purple” (1985), “To Sleep with Anger” (1990), “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001), “Dreamgirls” (2006), and “Sorry to Bother You” (2018). His most well-known role remains that of Detective Roger Murtaugh in the four-film “Lethal Weapon” series (1987-1998). He has also produced dozens of narrative and documentary films.
As a crusader for global justice, Glover has often used his influence to inspire others to take action against economic and social inequality. He has fought for the rights of union workers, supported the improvement of health care and education, and championed the importance of voting in elections. He has worked with UNICEF since 2004 and has traveled to Africa and South America many times on behalf of the agency. Throughout his life and career, he has fully represented Belafonte’s idea of a conscious and noble artist.
The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award is given to honor “an individual in the motion picture arts and sciences whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.” Its namesake served as president of the academy for four years and of the Motion Picture & Television Fund for 18. It has been bestowed 41 times since 1957, with Tyler Perry and the MPTF having been honored earlier this year. With the exception of 2021, the award has been presented since 2009 at an individual ceremony that takes place several months before the same year’s Oscars. Glover and the honorary awardees will collect their trophies on January 22, 2022.
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