W.E.B. Dubois Institute: The Epicenter of Black Studies

Article excerpt

Harvard University's WEB. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research, under the leadership of Dr. Henry Louis Gates,Jr., is closely integrated with the operation of the Afro-American studies department. This seamless relationship did not previously exist at Harvard. Originally, the lingering controversy over the acceptance of an Afro-American studies department led university officials to maintain distance between it and the institute.

Along with the Afro-American studies department, the Harvard faculty approved in 1969 the charter for a research center for African American studies. The center's mission focused on developing the Afro-American studies discipline bh facilitating a pre- and postdoctoral Fellow\Ts program, working groups on academic and social issues, major research projects, conferences, publications, and lectures by prominent scholars.

Six years after the launch of the AfroAmerican studies department, the Harvard administration, in 1975, finally got around to establishing the DuBois Institute. Fath Ruffins, the first administrator of the institute and now a historian at the Smithsonian Institution, says Harvard officials deliberately kept the institute away from the purview of the Afro-American studies department.

By the early 1980s, Harvard had lured Dr. Nathan Huggins, a Iar,ald Ph.D. in history, to direct the institute. With Huggins, who also became chair of the Afro-American studies department, at the helm, the institute had some linkage to the academic program, but management of the entities remained separated.

"Huggins opened up the Dubois Institute to attract more interest from the undergraduate community,," Ruffins says. …