JBHE Analysis Finds That Blacks Are About 5 Percent of the Membership of the American Academy of Arts and Letters

The American Academy of Arts and Letters is less well known than the American Academy of Arts and Sciences but considerably more exclusive. Membership is restricted to 250 individuals. Unlike the AAAS, where scholars from almost any field are eligible for membership, inductees into the AAAL must be a luminary in literature, art, or music. Current and past members include Allen Ginsberg, Stephen Sondheim, Susan Sontag, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

As is the case with the other honorary societies, there are no official statistics on the present racial makeup of the AAAL membership. However, independent analysis of the membership list by JBHE concluded that at the present time 12 of the 250 members, or 4.8 percent, are black. Thus, it appears that blacks are more proportionately represented in the AAAL than in the AAAS and many of the nation’s other prestigious honorary societies.

The 12 black members are:

T.J. Anderson
Jamaica Kincaid
Amiri Baraka
Toni Morrison
Ornette Coleman
Albert Lee Murray
Ernest J. Gaines
Martin Puryear
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
George T. Walker
Richard Hunt
Olly Wilson