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Key Moments in the Founding of the Department

Key moments in the founding of the Department of African and African American Studies

1968

April 10
Black Students Organization Afro publishes an advertisement

The black student organization Afro publishes an advertisement in the Harvard Crimson calling for the university to:

  • "Establish an endowed chair for a Black Professor.
  • Establish courses relevant to Blacks at Harvard.
  • Establish more lower level Black Faculty members.
  • Admit a number of Black students proportionate to our percentage of the population as a whole."
April 14
Founding of the Ad Hoc Committee of Black Students

Founding of the Ad Hoc Committee of Black Students. "Approximately fifty members of the Harvard black student community voted to establish a ten-member body to be the sole articulator of the demands of black students to the Administration on the issues of (1) black admissions, (2) black curriculum, and (3) black faculty" (Charles H. Curl, Jr.'s typescript, "The History of the Ad Hoc Committee (Spring '68).")

April 19
Ad Hoc Committee of Black Students modifies demands

Ad Hoc Committee of Black Students modifies its demands and calls for (1) a chair in Black Studies instead of a chair specifically for a black professor; (2) the admittance of a greater number of qualified black students rather than a specific percentage; and (3) the establishment of an African-American Research Center.

April 29
More black Harvard students

The Admissions Department announces its intention to recruit and admit more black students to Harvard.

May 9
Faculty Committee on African and Afro-American Studies

Dean Franklin L. Ford invites a group of nine faculty members to accept appointments on a select Faculty Committee on African and Afro-American Studies. The members of the committee are C. T. W. Curle, Daniel M. Fox, George W. Goethals, Alan Heimert, H. Stuart Hughes, Martin L. Kilson, Jr., the only African American committee member, Gary T. Marx, J. W. M. Whiting, and Henry Rosovsky, chairman. Two students nominated by the Ad Hoc Committee of Black Students are invited to join the committee as observers, Ernest J. Wilson III and Octavia Hudson. Dean Ford charges the committee with:
"(1) Clearer identification and better advertisement of courses on Africa and/or various aspects of the experience of black Americans, courses which are already in our catalogue; (2) the mounting of additional instruction in these subjects at Harvard; (3) the greater articulation of our offerings with those of other institutions in these subjects at Harvard; (4) movement toward a possible field of undergraduate concentration, necessarily cutting across disciplinary lines but held together by the centrality of concern for African and Afro-American subject matter" (Rosovsky Report).

May 16
New course in Afro-American Studies

The Committee on General Education's subcommittee on Social Sciences approves plans for a new middle-level course in Afro-American Studies, Social Sciences 5. Titled "The Afro-American Experience," the year-long course is to be taught in the fall by Frank B. Friedel and Daniel M. Fox.

November 22
Students call for the creation of a Department of Afro-American Studies

Critical of Social Sciences 5, the Ad Hoc Committee of Black Students releases a statement calling for the creation of a Department of Afro-American Studies at Harvard.

1969

January 20
Rosovsky Report

Report of the Faculty Committee on African and Afro-American Studies ("Rosovsky Report") is issued. The report recommends: (1) the creation of a standing Faculty Committee on degrees in Afro-American Studies to develop and supervise a combined major in this field and to grant degrees starting with the class of 1972; (2) the establishment of a coordinating Committee on African Studies to oversee the increase of course offerings in African studies;(3) the building of a social and cultural center for black students; (4) the establishment of a Center for Afro-American Studies, which would "provide intellectual leadership, a physical locale and sufficient material resources for consideration of all asepcts of the Afro-American experience"; and (5) a major effort to increase black enrollment in the graduate school and to earmark fifteen to twenty fellowships per year for black graduate students.

February 11
Faculty accepts recommendations

The faculty accepts the recommendations of the Report of the Faculty Committee on African and Afro-American Studies.

February 19
Search committee for faculty appointments in Afro-American studies

Dean Franklin L. Ford appoints a search committee to identify candidates for faculty appointments in Afro-American studies. The committee includes three students selected by the Ad Hoc Committee of Black Students and three members of the faculty.

April 15
Students march

In a climate of widespread student unrest led by the Harvard-Radcliffe chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which resulted in rallies, sit-ins, strikes, and protests against ROTC and also labor policies at Harvard, African American students march on Dean Franklin L. Ford's office to reiterate their demands for student roles in setting up curricula for black studies and hiring tenured faculty.

April 22
Faculty approves students' demands to establish Afro-American Studies as a department

Overturning its earlier vote on the Rosovsky Report, the faculty approves students' demands to establish Afro-American Studies as a department and to have a voice in appointing faculty for the new department. Professor Henry Rosovsky, the committee chair, and Professor Daniel M. Fox resign from the committee.

In the same meeting, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences votes to expand the Standing Committee on Afro-American Studies to include three students chosen by the Association of African and Afro-American Students at Harvard and Radcliffe and three students chosen from and by potential concentrators in the field. The Standing Committee is to have the following functions:
 

  • To oversee expansion of library resources in the Afro-American Studies field;
  • To develop the Afro-American Research Institute;
  • To solicit funds for Departmental chairs;
  • To work towards a greater Boston consortium of university Afro-American resources;
  • To seek out and hire immediately, temporary consultants knowledgeable in Afro-American Studies and personally involved in the Afro-American experience to assist in the development of this program;
  • To nominate the first four to six appointments in the department, two of which must be tenured.
As of May
Standing Committee on Afro-American Studies

The Standing Committee on Afro-American Studies includes the following members:

Harold Amos (Bacteriology and Immunology)
Kathryn Bowser (Radcliffe '72)
Leslie F. Griffin, Jr. (Harvard '70)
Loretta G. Hardge (Radcliffe '72)
Clarence James (Harvard '72)
John F. Kain (Economics)
Myles V. Lynk (Harvard '70)
Juan Marichal (Romance Languages)
Talcott Parsons (Social Relations)
Mark Smith (Harvard '72)
Zeph Stewart (Classics)
Charles A. Whitney (Astronomy)
Richard A. Musgrave (Economics and Law School) - Chairman

September 22
Musgrave Report

The Standing Committee on Afro-American Studies issues a report-the so-called Musgrave Report-announcing nine faculty appointments and seven new courses for the fall term, with ten planned for the spring. The committee also proposes the establishment of a W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research. The faculty appointments included Dr. Ewart Guinier, Dr. Ephraim Isaac, Mr. Fred Clifton, Dr. Azinna Nwafor, Dr. Orlando Patterson, Professor Richard A. Long, Professor J. Newton Hill, Mr. Hayward Henry, and Mr. Harold R. Washington.

October
First chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies

Professor Ewart Guinier is named first chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies.

1970

September 21
Report of the Afro-American Studies Department

In the preface of his Report of the Afro-American Studies Department, Professor Ewart Guinier states that "we are building a program-graduate as well as undergraduate- which is being developed from a black perspective to serve the interests of the black community and thereby the interests of all." He further indicates in the introduction that the purpose of the department is "the development and use of appropriate tools with which to examine the Black experience in Africa and the New World in all its aspects and from a Black perspective." Guinier reports a total enrollment of 354 students in the department's 25 courses during the first academic year.

1972

June
First class graduates

The department graduates its first class of concentrators in Afro-American studies; they number fourteen.