Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

A Sister's Perspective on Harvard

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

A Sister's Perspective on Harvard

Article excerpt

A Sister's Perspective On Harvard

Black Issues' original impetus for going to Cambridge last December, was to talk with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and his colleagues in Harvard's Afro-American studies department. The extent to which Gates has transformed the profile and quality of that program, and the impact this enhanced status has had on the discipline of Black studies within the academy are the focus of this edition.

Yet, what struck me most about our visit to Harvard, and subsequently about our coverage, is the virtual absence of Black women among the university's influence peddlers. As is explained in the Blacks in Crimson story (see pg. 29), to date there is only one senior-ranking African American woman in the faculty of arts and sciences, Dr. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. She is the only sister with this status in a college where, in 1997 there were 419 senior professors, 52 of whom (12.4 percent) were women. Not surprisingly, she is appointed to the only place at Harvard where Black professors are in the majority: the Afro-American studies department.

Gates, who chairs Afro-American studies, says he hopes to add at least one more Black woman to his team in the ensuing months. But what about the other departments at Harvard? What about history, English, or philosophy? These disciplines have been around for centuries. Surely the nation has produced at least a few exceptional Black women with doctoral degrees in these disciplines over the years. I guess none of them has been "Harvard material. …

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