One African American Among the 30 New Fellows of the American Philosophical Society

Founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin, the American Philosophical Society is the nation’s oldest learned society. Members are not confined to the field of philosophy. They come from a wide variety of academic disciplines including mathematics, science, the humanities, social sciences, the arts, and public service. Past members have included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, Charles Darwin, and Thomas Edison. Today there are about 900 members of the society, 200 of whom have won a Nobel Prize.

In common with other prestigious learned organizations, the American Philosophical Society does not reveal the racial makeup of its membership. The society’s African-American membership does include black scholars such as Cornel West, K. Anthony Appiah, Toni Morrison, and Henry Louis Gates Jr. A year ago three new black scholars were elected to membership. They were Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot, Lawrence J. Bobo, and Claude Steele.

This year there is one black scholar among the 30 newly elected American members of the society. The new African-American member is Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, who is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and African and African-American Studies at Harvard University. Professor Higginbotham, whose research concentrates on the history of African-American women, also chairs the African and African-American studies department at Harvard.

Professor Higginbotham is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She holds a master’s degree from Howard University and a Ph.D. in American history from the University of Rochester.