By Roach, Ronald
Black Issues in Higher Education , Vol. 19, No. 23
Title: Assistant Professor of Classical Studies, Duke University, Durham, N.C.
Education: Ph.D., Classical Philology, Princeton University; M.A., Latin, University of Cape Town; B.A., Latin, University of Cape Town
In the last years of apartheid rule in South Africa, Grant Richard Parker, a native of Cape Town, had a burning ambition to continue his education outside his home country. Though he managed to work abroad in Germany, he had envisioned pursuing graduate studies in the United Kingdom after gaining admission to a doctoral program at Oxford University.
When Oxford didn't provide Parker the necessary scholarships to fund his doctoral education, the young South African turned his attention to America, where he would gain admission and scholarship funding to Princeton University in New Jersey.
Nearly a decade after migrating to the United States, Parker is now an assistant professor of Classical Studies at Duke University in Durham, N.C. The mixed-race South African is one of a few Black classicists holding a full-time academic position at an American university.
Defined as a so-called "coloured" person, as a youngster, Parker endured apartheid and lived in a segregated township outside Cape Town. His parents, who are retired teachers, encouraged Parker's interest in literature and history, which led him to study Latin in high school. Taking up ancient Greek in addition to Latin in college, he attended the University of Cape Town during the turbulent years of national protest against apartheid in the 1980s.
"Students of color were very much a minority at the University of Cape Town. It was a very political time," Parker says.
His odyssey from Cape Town to Durham reflects in spirit the cross-cultural boundary-breaking orientation of his classics research. He's currently at work turning his Princeton dissertation, which explored the perceptions that ancient Romans had of what is now India and its peoples, into a book. …