About

Greetings from the Chair

The Department is truly multidisciplinary. Our faculty, like the mission of African and African American Studies itself, spans the social sciences and humanities.   Thus, our courses reach from Anthropology, Economics, Political Science, Sociology, and Psychology, to Art, Music, History, Language and Linguistics, Women, Sexuality and Gender studies as well as Literature and Philosophy.  Our scope is, likewise, genuinely global.  The department’s faculty reflect genuine depth of expertise not only in the U.S. and the African Continent but increasingly in the Afro-Latin American world and the Caribbean. 

Department Chairs

2018-present

Tommie Shelby

Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy

2013-2018

Lawrence Bobo

Lawrence D. Bobo

Lawrence D. Bobo, W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences, becomes chair of the Department of African and African American Studies. 

2006-2013

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies, becomes the second woman to chair the department and the second black woman to be appointed a full professor with tenure in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.  She is also the first African American with a tenured appointment in the Department of History.

1991-2006

Henry Louis Gates

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., accepts Harvard's appointment as W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities and begins his tenure as chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies and director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research.

1990-1991

Barbara Johnson

Barbara Johnson

(1947-2009)

Barbara Johnson, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, serves as interim chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies.  At the initiative of President Derek Bok and Dean Henry Rosovsky, Johnson leads the search for a new chair of Afro-American Studies and a new director of the Du Bois Institute.

1984-87 & 1988-90

Werner Sollors

Werner Sollors

Werner Sollors, Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Professor of Afro-American Studies, serves as chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies.

1980-83, 1987-88

Nathan Irving Huggins

Nathan Irvin Huggins

(1927-1989)

Nathan Irvin Huggins, W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of History and Afro-American Studies, serves as chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies and as Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Center for Afro-American Research.

1976-1979

Eileen Southern

Eileen Southern

(1920-2002)

Eileen Southern, professor of Afro-American studies and music, becomes chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies. She is the first black woman to be appointed full professor with tenure at Harvard.

1969-1976

Ewart Guinier

Ewart Guinier

(1910-1990)

Professor Ewart Guinier is named first chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies.