David Brion Davis, a Sterling professor of American history, will be the 2013 recipient of the National Humanities Medal. The medal is awarded to those who have “deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.” The medal is awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and can be given to as many as 12 individuals each year. This year President Barack Obama will present the medals at the White House on July 28, in a ceremony also honoring recipients of the National Medal of Arts.

Davis’ scholarship focuses on the history of slavery and abolition. He joined the Yale faculty in 1970 and retired in 2001. He was the founding director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition.

The awarding of the medal was to the Yale community Thursday in an email from University President Peter Salovey.

Davis’ award cited his “reshaping our understanding of history,” Salovey noted in his email.

Davis will join a prestigious list of Yale historians, including Donald Kagan and John Lewis Gaddis, who have received the medal in past years.