African Studies Center

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African Studies Center founded in 1953.

"Center lore has it that early in 1951 a group of young assistant professors at the University discovered a shared interest in Africa and decided to approach the Dean of the Graduate School (Dean MacDonald). This group included George Lewis (Geography), Zeb Reyna (Psychology), William Newman (Political Science), Lyn Watson (Anthropology), and Al Zalin (Sociology). Also on the scene was a young Radcliffe doctoral candidate named Adelaide Cromwell (Hill) who taught sociology in the University's Sargent College and was recruited to join the group from the College of Liberal Arts. At least one story has it that the group of young professors initially had in mind establishing an Africana library collection, but that the Dean "enthusiatically" suggested a program of graduate study instead.

"The hiring of its first director, and a grant from the Ford Foundation, established the ASC's formal foundation as the African Research and Studies Program. Initially the founding committee approached and discussed the directorship with Dr. Heinz Wieschoff, then Director of the Division of Trusteeship at the United Nations who had been involved in University of Pennsylvania's African studies committee (founded in 1941, but disbanded at the end of the war). Dr. Wieschoff declined, wishing to continue his work on the U.N. Trust Territories, which at that time included administering Southwest Africa (Namibia) and establishing Eritrea's controversial 1952 federation with Ethiopia. Wieschoff continued his UN work until 1960 when he died tragically in the same plane crash that killed U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld.

"Geographer George Lewis, then on a trip to Washington, D.C., approached sociologist William O. Brown, an African Affairs specialist at the State Department (his Africa interest stemmed from his service there in the OSS during World War Two) who accepted the directorship. With the arrival of Dr. Brown in September 1953 the Boston University African Studies Program officially began (it later took the name African Research and Studies Program) at 154 Bay State Road. In that year Adelaide Cromwell Hill, a newly minted Radcliffe Ph.D. in sociology formally joined the Program as Program Administrator and Research Associate. One of Bill Brown's first tasks as director was to seek external funds and in 1954 the Program received its first five-year Ford Foundation Area Studies grant. In that same year Ford also offered its first African area studies grants to three other African studies programs: Northwestern (under Prof. Melville Herskovits) and Howard University (under Prof. E. Franklin Frazier). UCLA (under Prof. James Coleman) also received funding in that year, though UCLA's African Studies Center was not formally established until 1959...

"Ford Foundation graduate fellowships provided the regal sum of $2,250 plus tuition and University support complemented the Ford grant. One of the Program's original foci was also to train State Department officers and in 1959 it signed a 3-year contract with the International Cooperation Administration (a precursor to USAID) to train four groups of officers in 6-7 month programs. For that project the Program obtained additional program space in a building at 206 Bay State Road, a building directly east of the current Department of History." [1]

"By the time of its 1958 report to the newly formed African Studies Association in 1958, the African Research and Studies Program at Boston University listed the following faculty:

"Norman Bennett, historian of East Africa, finished his degree and joined the faculty in 1961. Others who joined the faculty in the late 1950s and early 1960s were Jeffrey Butler, Ruth Schachter (Morgenthau), Creighton Gabel, Phillip Gulliver, and Edouard Bustin. Alphonse Castagno (Political Science) became the Center’s second director in 1966, after William O. Brown’s death, until his own death in 1974. Economist John Harris (hired from M.I.T.) served as Director from 1975 through 1985, followed by anthropologist Allan Hoben (1986-92), historian James McCann (1992-2005) and James Pritchett (2005-2009)." [2]


Accessed March 2010: [3]

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Resources and articles

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  1. The Foundations, African Studies Center, accessed March 24, 2010.
  2. History, African Studies Center, accessed March 24, 2010.
  3. [ Directors], African Studies Center, accessed March 24, 2010.
  4. History, African Studies Center, accessed March 24, 2010.