Seven African Americans Elected Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

This year 203 new fellows were elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Founded in 1780 the Academy is among the most prestigious honorary societies in the United States. Its membership includes more than 160 Nobel Prize winners and more than 50 winners of the Pulitzer Prize.

As in past years, the Academy did not disclose the racial makeup of the new members. But through an analysis of the new members list, JBHE has been able to determine that at least seven of the new members are black. Six of the seven new black members are academics.

Here is the list of new members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences who are black:

Christopher F. Edley Jr., dean and professor of law at the Boalt Hall law school of the University of California at Berkeley
Spike Lee, filmmaker with credits such as Do the Right Thing and X, and artistic director of the graduate film program at New York University
Jessye Norman, renowned opera soloist and president of L’Orchidee Inc.
Nell Irvin Painter, Edwards Professor Emeritus of American History at Princeton University
James H. Sidanius, professor of psychology and African-American studies at Harvard University
Donald Mitchell Stewart, visiting professor at the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago and former president of The College Board
David R. Williams, Norman Professor of Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health

JBHE estimates that there are now 80 blacks who are members of the Academy. They make up about 2 percent of the entire 4,000-member Academy.


“Every day blacks are cheated of a decent education in this country. That to me is obscene.”

Leon Litwack, who is retiring this spring as a professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, May 3, 2007


Denial of Tenure to Black Scholars Provokes Student Protests on Two Campuses

George White Jr., a black assistant professor of history and African studies at the University of Tennessee, has filed a race discrimination lawsuit against the Knoxville institution. Professor White claims that he was denied tenure because of his race. The suit asserts that the tenure committee dismissed the scholarly value of his published book — Holding the Line: Race, Racism, and American Foreign Policy Toward Africa, 1953-1961 — because it was based on critical race theory. Students protested on campus when the professor did not obtain tenure. Professor White is a graduate of Harvard Law School and holds a Ph.D. from Temple University.

Blacks now make up 3.6 percent of the full-time faculty at the University of Tennessee.

At Washington University in St. Louis, students protested the denial of tenure to Leslie Brown, an assistant professor of history and African-American studies. Brown has been the only African American in the history department at the university for the past two years. Professor Brown is a graduate of Tufts University and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Duke University.


Vanderbilt University Professor Charges Black Leadership With Ignoring Illegal Immigration and Its Harm to African Americans

Carol Swain, professor at the Vanderbilt University law school, is calling for black leaders to take a stronger stand against illegal immigration. In a new book entitled Debating Immigration, which she edited and to which she made contributions, Professor Swain asserts that African Americans are losing more jobs to illegal immigrants than are other ethnic groups. The influx of illegal immigrants, according to Swain, damages low-income African Americans’ ability to secure jobs and also to attain quality housing, education, and health care.

Swain writes that the Congressional Black Caucus has virtually ignored the issue of illegal immigration. She notes that many African-American representatives in Congress have a large number of Hispanic constituents and do not want to stir up political opposition in their districts.


Edward Waters College Names New President

Claudette H. Williams was appointed the 28th president of Edward Waters College, the historically black educational institution in Jacksonville, Florida. Williams, a native of Jamaica, was executive vice president of Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina. She previously taught at Clark Atlanta University.

Dr. Williams will assume her duties at Edward Waters College on June 1.


Fundraising Drive Aims to Save LeMoyne-Owen College

LeMoyne-Owen College, the historically black educational institution in Memphis, is more than $6 million in debt. The administration has said that it needs to raise $3 million by the end of June to stave off a financial crisis.

Area churches have pledged to contribute $500,000 in each of the next three years. Cummins Inc., the diesel engine manufacturer, pledged another $500,000.

Robert Lipscomb, chair of the board of trustees, has asked the state of Tennessee to chip in $1 million and has requested that the city of Memphis and Shelby County contribute $500,000 each to help keep the college open. He also urged local residents to make contributions to the college. “If we don’t support our own institution, then why should anybody else,” Lipscomb said at a rally to drum up financial support held on campus.

Readers who would like to make an online contribution to help this fundraising effort can do so by clicking here.


Dental Pipeline Project Seeks to Increase Number of Practitioners Serving Black and Low-Income Communities

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of Princeton, New Jersey, has contributed $4 million to a program it created in 2001 to address the lack of dental care in low-income communities. The funds are distributed to dental schools across the United States for them to use to increase the number of black and other minority dental students. The grants also support a program where dental students at participating schools provide care to low-income students in community clinics.

Fifteen dental schools currently participate in the Dental Pipeline Project. They are located at Boston University, Howard University, Meharry Medical College, Temple University, Ohio State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of California at San Francisco. Also participating are the University of Connecticut, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Washington, West Virginia University, Loma Linda University, UCLA, the University of the Pacific, and the University of Southern California.



• B. Afeni Cobham was named assistant provost for student life at the University of Denver. She was the assistant dean for student life and associate director of residential programs at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cobham is a graduate of Marist College. She holds master’s degrees from the University of Georgia and Indiana University and a doctorate in higher education from Indiana University.

• Timothy Tee Boddie, the chaplain at Hampton University, the historically black educational institution in Virginia, was elected president of the National Association of College and University Chaplains. He is the first African American to be elected president of the organization.

• Lorraine Newton Lalli was promoted to assistant dean of students at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. She was the associate director of academic support and director of diversity and outreach programs at the university.  Lalli is a magna cum laude graduate of Spelman College and holds a law degree from Roger Williams University.

• Linda Bradley was named director of the Daytona Beach campus of the University of Central Florida. She was an associate executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. Earlier in her career she was an assistant professor of psychology at Bethune-Cookman University, the historically black educational institution in Daytona Beach.

Dr. Bradley is a graduate of St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee and an educational doctorate from Florida State University.

• Carmen E. Tillery was appointed dean of students at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. She was the director of student support services at Randolph Community College in Asheboro, North Carolina.

Dr. Tillery is a business administration graduate of Northern Illinois University. She holds a master’s degree and an educational doctorate from Iowa State University.

• Phail Wynn Jr., president of Durham Technical Community College for the past 27 years, has announced his retirement at the end of 2007. Dr. Wynn was the first African American to serve as a community college president in North Carolina.

A few days later, after Wynn said he was stepping down, it was announced that he would become vice president for Durham and regional affairs at Duke University.

Dr. Wynn, now 59 years old, is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He holds a master’s degree in educational psychology from North Carolina State University, an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a doctorate from North Carolina State University.

• Alton B. Pollard III was named dean of the Howard University School of Divinity. He was an associate professor of religion and culture at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. At Emory, Dr. Pollard was also director of the program on black church studies.

Dean Pollard is a graduate of Fisk University. He holds a master’s degree in divinity from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from Duke University. He will assume his new position at Howard on July 1.

• Angela L. Walker Franklin was named executive vice president at Meharry Medical College. She was the associate vice president and vice dean for academic and student affairs at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

Dr. Franklin is a graduate of Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Emory University.



Clemson University Looks to Boost the Number of Black Ph.D.s

Blacks make up 29 percent of the population in South Carolina. But 8.5 percent of all doctoral degrees awarded in the state go to African Americans.

The Charles H. Houston Center for the Study of the Black Experience in Education at Clemson University has developed a new program with the goal of increasing the number of black students in South Carolina who obtain a doctorate. It is hoped that an increase in the number of blacks earning Ph.D.s and other doctorates will, in turn, lead to greater racial diversity in faculty ranks at South Carolina’s state-operated universities.

Under the program, developed by Lamont A. Flowers, distinguished professor of educational leadership at Clemson University, and Frankie Keels Williams, an assistant professor at Clemson’s School of Education, undergraduate students are recruited to investigate the pursuit of graduate study. Seminars are held on financial aid and admissions. Students who are interested in pursuing graduate degrees are paired with a mentor who guides them through the application process.

Professor Flowers tells JBHE that there currently are 14 Palmetto Ph.D. Project Fellows.


New Web Site Establishes Network Where Employers Can Seek Out African-American College Graduates

Many corporations would jump at the chance to hire a black student with an Ivy League education. But a large number of black students who graduate from these schools lack the professional and social contacts of their white peers. Thus, many black students struggle to find the job that is right for them.

Two recent Ivy League graduates hope to solve this networking problem for African-American college graduates. Brandon M. Terry, a 2005 Harvard graduate, and Sean M. Mendy, a 2005 graduate of Cornell University, have created a new Web site called GetConnects.com. Black and other minority students can post their profiles and resumes online at no charge. About 700 students have already done so. In addition to Ivy League graduates, students from 12 other highly ranked colleges and universities can access the service. Among the participating institutions are Howard University, Spelman College, MIT, Duke, Stanford, and Berkeley.

Corporations interested in recruiting black managers and professionals pay a nominal fee to access the student information. The site is ideal for small companies that do not have the time or money to visit campuses or job fairs in order to recruit employees.

For more information on this new service for African-American college graduates, click here.


NFL’s Youngest Player Has His Eyes Set on Graduate School at Harvard

This coming September, Amobi Okoye may become the youngest man to ever play in a National Football League game. Okoye, a native of Nigeria, graduated from the University of Louisville this past December at the age of 19. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology in three and a half years while playing defensive tackle for the football team. Okoye, who could walk when he was only seven months old, was selected as the first choice of the Houston Texans, and the tenth overall selection in the recent NFL draft.

Okoye’s mother was a school principal in Nigeria. Because she couldn’t find anyone to take care of her child during the school day, Okoye began school at age 2. After coming to the United States, he enrolled in high school in Alabama when he was 12. Not knowing a thing about football he joined the high school team at age 13 and learned the game by playing it at home on Sony PlayStation. He was named to the All-State team at age 14 and accepted a full athletic scholarship to the University of Louisville at age 15. He turned down an offer to play football at Harvard because he wanted to participate at the highest level of competition.

If Okoye plays in any of the Houston Texans’ first three games this fall, he will be the youngest player in NFL history. At some point Okoye plans to enroll in graduate school and he hopes to go to Harvard.


New Lecture Series at Macalester College Honors Black Historian

A new lecture series has been established at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, to honor long-time faculty member Mahmoud El-Kati. Earlier this month U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison, an African American who is the first Muslim to ever be elected to the House of Representatives, was the first person brought to campus under the lectureship.

Mahmoud El-Kati taught history at Macalester College from 1970 to 2003. A graduate of Wilberforce University, the historically black educational institution in Ohio, El-Kati has had a long career as a lecturer and newspaper columnist.


Columbia Students Call for Departmental Status for African-American Studies and Ethnic Studies

A group of students at the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University has issued a paper calling for the institution to grant departmental status to the ethnic studies program. This semester, only four ethnic studies courses were taught at the university. There are eight faculty members on campus affiliated with the program. Only one is tenured.

The student report calls on the university to grant department status to ethnic studies so that a core group of at least five faculty members can be hired for the new department. The report also urges that Columbia offer more courses on Native American studies and for the African-American studies program to be granted full departmental status.


2.4%  Percentage of the entire U.S. population that identified themselves as biracial in 2000.

1.9%  Percentage of the entire U.S. population that identified themselves as biracial in 2005.

source: U.S. Census Bureau


GOP Presidential Candidate, Congressman Tom Tancredo, Proposes to Ban Race-Sensitive Admissions at All Colleges That Accept Federal Funds

Colorado Congressman and GOP presidential candidate Tom Tancredo has introduced legislation which would prohibit the federal government from using any form of racial preferences. The bill, entitled the Equal Opportunity Protection and Civil Rights Restoration Act of 2007, would also ban the use of racial preferences in admissions programs for any college or university in the United States that accepts federal funds.

“It makes no sense to try and remedy the ills of discrimination with yet more discrimination. Picking winners and losers based on race was wrong in the past and it is wrong today,” Tancredo said when announcing the legislation.

The bill is pure political posturing by Tancredo, who is hoping to establish himself as the most conservative of the GOP presidential hopefuls. The bill stands almost no chance of even making it to the floor of the Democratic-controlled Congress.



• Prince Brown Jr., associate professor of sociology and Afro-American studies and the director of the Institute for Freedom Studies at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, has announced that he will retire from teaching next month. Brown has taught at the college level for 35 years and has been at Northern Kentucky since 1991.

On accepting Prince Brown’s decision to retire, James Votruba, president of Northern Kentucky University, said, “Prince Brown has distinguished himself as an outstanding teacher, a gifted scholar, and a voice of conscience on behalf of equality and social justice.”

Brown will finish work on a research project he has been conducting for the past eight years on the Underground Railroad.



• Lavern J. Holyfield, director of faculty development at the Baylor College of Dentistry, was named the inaugural Jeanne C. Sinkford Scholar of the Leadership Institute of the American Dental Education Association (ADEA).

The award is named after the former dean of the Howard University dental school who is now associate executive director of ADEA’s Center for Equity and Diversity.

• Henry Louis Gates Jr., Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University, received a Special Lifetime Achievement Award from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.



• Florida A&M University, the historically black educational institution in Tallahassee, received a grant of computer software valued at $740,000 from Microsoft Inc. Under the program, students at the university’s School of Business and Industry and the College of Arts and Sciences will receive free software.

• South Carolina State University, the historically black educational institution in Orangeburg, received a $10,000 grant from AT&T to fund five new scholarships for students. The scholarships will honor Congressman James Clyburn, an African American who currently serves as the majority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives.


Copyright © 2007. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.