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Allen Toussaint, left, and Ernest Gaines

A pair of Louisiana natives who distinguished themselves in different artistic disciplines, novelist Ernest Gaines and composer/musician Allen Toussaint are among a half dozen who will receive the prestigious National Medal of Arts from President Obama this week.

Author of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, A Lesson Before Dying and other works, Gaines is a native of Point Coupee Parish who has also served as a distinguished professor at UL Lafayette. Toussaint was instrumental in the development of the New Orleans rhythm-and-blues sound that emerged in the 1950s and ’60s and remains an active architect of the Crescent City’s musical identity.

“Born and raised in New Orleans, Mr. Toussaint has built a legendary career alongside America’s finest musicians, sustaining his city’s rich tradition of rhythm and blues and lifting it to a national stage,” reads Toussaint’s medal citation. Gaines is praised by the White House for having “shed new light on the African-American experience and given voice to those who have endured injustice.”

Also receiving the medal at Wednesday’s White House ceremony is Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer-winning playwright who, although not a native of Louisiana, grew up in Lake Charles; Star Wars director George Lucas, musician/band leader Herb Alpert and comedian/writer Elaine May.

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