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Awards for Academic Excellence
The following prizes are awarded annually at the Department's graduation celebration held the Wednesday before Commencement. All African and African American Studies senior concentrators are automatically eligible for the awards for academic excellence below. For more information on these awards please contact:
Graduate and Undergraduate Program Officer
Cornel West Prize
Thesis on African American topic in addition to academic performance
Eligibility: African and African American Studies Concentrators
In 2003, the Department of African and African American Studies instituted the first Cornel West Prize, named after the famed scholar who was an honored member of Harvard’s faculty until 2002. In addition to his important leadership and prolific scholarship, Cornel West earned his undergraduate degree at Harvard College, finishing his degree in an impressive three years. This monetary award is to honor an African and African American Studies Senior who has displayed the best overall performance (as indicated by thesis and GPA) in the concentration.
Alain Locke Prize
Most outstanding academic scholar
Eligibility: African American Studies Concentrator
This prize, established in 1993 by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., honors Alain LeRoy Locke, a member of the Harvard Class of 1908. He completed his undergraduate requirements in three years, graduating magna cum laude, and was the third African American recipient of a Harvard Ph.D. Locke is best known for his writing on literature and art and is referred to by some as the "godfather of the Harlem Renaissance." A monetary prize is awarded to the most outstanding academic scholar among the graduating African American Studies Track concentrators.
Ephraim Isaac Prize for Excellence in African Studies
Exceptional capability in African Languages
Eligibility: Harvard College Senior
Inaugurated in academic year 1999–2000, the prize is named in honor of Ephraim Isaac, Director of the Institute of Semitic Studies, Princeton, New Jersey, and Visiting Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University. As the first faculty appointment in Harvard University’s fledgling Department of Afro-American Studies in 1969, Professor Isaac played an important role in the early history of the Department. Deeply committed to this emerging field of scholarship, Isaac continued as a faculty member until 1977 and taught almost half of the students enrolled in the program during that time period. During his tenure at Harvard (1969–1977), Professor Isaac was voted the best teacher each year by the students of the Department of Afro-American Studies. The Ephraim Isaac Prize for Excellence in African Languages is awarded annually to a graduating senior who shows exceptional capability in African Languages.
W. E. B. Du Bois Award
Highest Grade Point Average
Eligibility: Senior Concentrator focusing on African topics
Established in 2003, the Du Bois Prize is given to the graduating senior in African Studies with the highest Grade Point Average. The first African American to be awarded a Ph.D. from Harvard University (1895), Du Bois attended in London the first Pan-African Congress (1900) and was elected Secretary of the organization. By 1962, Du Bois’s dedication to Africa culminated in his decision to become a citizen of Ghana. This award celebrates the connection between Du Bois and the African Continent.