Harvard University Adds Another Black Face to Its Portrait Gallery

A 2002 survey by the curator of the Harvard University portrait collection found that 690 of the university’s approximately 750 portraits were of white men. About 58 portraits were of white women. Only two portraits were of minorities.

Later that year, then Harvard president Lawrence Summers pledged $100,000 to the Minority Portraiture Project. The first three portraits of African Americans, unveiled in 2005, were of Archie C. Epps III, the late dean of students, Eileen Jackson Southern, the first black woman to hold a tenured faculty position at Harvard, and David L. Evans, an electrical engineer who worked on the Apollo project, which sent men to the moon. Evans subsequently served as a senior admissions officer at Harvard for more than 30 years.

Now another African American has been added to the Harvard portrait gallery. At a reception held earlier this month, in the common room at Lowell House, the university unveiled a portrait of Chester M. Pierce, the longtime professor of psychiatry and education. Pierce is a 1948 graduate of Harvard College. In 1947, Pierce played for Harvard at a football game at the University of Virginia. It is believed that this was the first time a black player participated in a football game at an all-white southern state university.