Anthropology Professor John Ogbu Dies at Age 64

Article excerpt

In Appreciation

Dr. John Uzo Ogbu, professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a path-breaking scholar in the fields of minority education and identity, died of a heart attack after undergoing back surgery on Aug. 20. He was 64.

Ogbu is known for his work that attempted to understand how race and ethnic differences played out in educational and economic achievement. He stirred controversy in 1986 when he co-authored a study that concluded African American students in a Washington, D.C., high school didn't live up to their academic potential because of the fear of being accused of "acting White."

His most recent book, Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement (Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers, 2003) also drew widespread attention (see Black Issues, April 24). Concerned parents and other members of the middle-class Black community in Shaker Heights, Ohio, invited Ogbu there to help them understand why some Black students in their highly regarded suburban school system were "disengaged" from academic work and did not perform as well as their White counterparts. He concluded that the Black students' own cultural attitudes hindered academic achievement and that these attitudes are too often neglected.

"He devoted his life to the study of a very difficult problem - differential educational achievement among minority populations in the United States," said Dr. …


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