Established with the support of the Hutchins Family Foundation, this Harvard University center supports programs and research related to the culture and history of people of African descent. The Center was created in 2013 and combined several existing Harvard institutions and such the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute, the Du Bois Review, Cooper Gallery, the Image of the Black Archive & Library, and the Hiphop Archive. The Center and has grown to include the Afro-Latin American Research Institute, the History Design Studio, and several other organizations and projects related to African and African American history. The Center is led by founding director Henry Louis Gates Jr., a West Virginia native whose autobiographical work "Colored People" describes life in a small Appalachian town divided by race and class but still united by a sense of common experiences. The Center is part of a fifty-year history of African American studies at Harvard that can be traced back to a student group who called for more courses related to their history and culture in a 1969 Harvard Crimson editorial.


In April 1968, members of a student organization at Harvard University published an ad in the Harvard Crimson calling for the creation of courses relevant to black students. The students also called on the university to hire more black faculty members and measures to admit a more proportional number of black students to the university. Following the ad, the students created a committee and worked with administrators to promote a greater emphasis on curriculum related to African and African American studies. 

The admissions department responded and stated their intention to recruit and admit more black students. On May 9, the dean Franklin L. Ford invited a group of nine faculty members and two students to join a committee to investigate the issue. One week later, a new course entitled “The Afro-American Experience” was approved to be taught in the fall. That fall in November, the ad hoc committee released a statement calling for the creation of a Department of African American Studies.

In 1969, the committee released a report calling for the creation of a Department of African and African American Studies, more scholarships for black students, more black faculty, and a black student center. With the support of university president Derek Bok, Harvard established the DuBois Institute in 1969. In its early years, the Department of African and African American Studies enrolled numerous students and offered as many as 25 courses. In 1972 the new department granted degrees to its first graduates.

Five years later, the African American Studies Department was described as the “the step child nobody wanted anymore” by students Peter Hardie and Bruce Jacobs in an article titled “On the Brink: Afro American studies at Harvard” in the Harvard Crimson. Not all Harvard students or faculty agreed with this estimate, but continued advocacy on the part of students led to additional consideration for resources.  

In 1996-97, a proposal for a graduate program in the Department of African and African American Studies coincided with the opening of the Barker Center which housed the department as well as the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute. The graduate student program commenced in 2000 and in 2003, the department changed its curriculum by including two tracks; the Africa track and the America track. 

In 2005, the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute moved out of the Barker Center and into 104 Mount Auburn St. so that each of the projects and staff of the Center could be housed under one roof. 






Key Moments in the Founding of the Department. Harvard University Department of African and African American Studies. Accessed October 03, 2018. https://aaas.fas.harvard.edu/department-founding.

Greeting from the Chair. Harvard University Department of African and African American studies. . Accessed October 02, 2018. https://aaas.fas.harvard.edu/greetings-chair.

Other Key Moments. Harvard University Department of African and African American studies. . Accessed October 02, 2018. https://aaas.fas.harvard.edu/other-key-moments. 

Hardie, Peter. Bruce, Jacobs. On the Brink: Afro-American Studies at Harvard. The Harvard Crimson. January 18, 1977. Accessed October 02, 2018. https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1977/1/18/on-the-brink-afro-american-studies-at/.

Singer, Michael. Colin Kaepernick to receive Harvard honor for African and African American studies. USA TODAY. September 20, 2018. Accessed October 02, 2018. https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2018/09/20/colin-kaepernick-harvard-announces-distinguished-honor-ex-nfl-qb/1374426002/.