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Others argued that cutting back on their programs would diminish Howard's unique perspective

and history, and that tilting toward the STEM fields would prove misguided because

they are not the university's traditional area of strength. Howard is the only historically

black college that has had a classics program since its inception . . .



A Shift in Direction at Howard

From Undergraduate Classics to Graduate STEM Programs

By Dan Berrett


The father of the Harlem Renaissance may well be turning in his grave. Alain Locke, the first African American Rhodes Scholar and chief interpreter of the Harlem Renaissance, guided Howard University’s philosophy department for 32 years. It remains the only stand-alone philosophy program among the nation's historically black colleges. In a move that is distressing some faculty and alumni, the department that Locke once led could be stripped of its independent status and merged with classics and religion, if sweeping recommendations unveiled last month by Howard University's president, Sidney Ribeau, take effect.

Similar fates could befall 20 undergraduate programs—or more than a third of those now offered—including African studies and anthropology, after a yearlong review by a presidential commission on academic renewal. The commission, composed of 53 staff and faculty members, students, alumni, and external experts, was charged with doing a top-to-bottom review of Howard’s academic offerings. Members submitted a report to Ribeau, who released his own set of recommendations—in some cases differing from the commission—in October.

It was the first thorough review of the entire university's academic offerings in the institution’s history, and it was made urgent by twin imperatives. The first is current economic reality, in ways that are both common to other universities and unique to Howard, said Alvin Thornton, special adviser to Howard’s president, and leader of the review. “A combination of incremental growth in academic programs over the years and incremental budgeting to support them has led to circumstances in which many of the university’s diverse degree programs are under-funded,” Thornton wrote in an introduction to the committee’s recommendations. “The university supports too many academic programs across far too broad a spectrum.”

The other imperative driving the change is the historical moment in which Howard finds itself. Decades after the end of segregation, some at Howard wonder if it needs to offer the broad range of programs it did when black students couldn't enroll at many universities. “We think we don’t have to try to offer 171 programs,” Thornton told Inside Higher Ed, explaining why the university is streamlining its programs.

The changes were in keeping with a vision staked out by Ribeau, who assumed the presidency in 2008. Graduate studies and, in particular, doctoral research will grow more central to Howard’s mission, according to this new vision. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] will become areas of emphasis, as will the health sciences. “Howard is and wants to be an enhanced research university,” said Thornton.

Pushing Back

A choice to deploy resources in one place means, inevitably, that these resources will be drawn from somewhere else. Undergraduate programs would be the hardest-hit under the proposal released by Ribeau. Some faculty members still hope for changes in the plan. Comments on the recommendations are due to Ribeau on Dec. 1, and final determinations will be voted on by the university's trustees in January. If adopted, some changes would take place immediately, while others would be phased in gradually, said Thornton.

The recommendations stunned and saddened some faculty members. "We were just totally shocked that the decision was made, given the legacy of African studies here at Howard," said Mbye Cham, head of that department, which would see its program cut on the undergraduate level in favor of placing greater emphasis on graduate teaching and scholarship. “Our students are very, very concerned. We’re vigorously pushing back.”

Cham acknowledged that the undergraduate program had produced few graduates—an average of two per year—though he argued that these students produced high-quality work that had been internationally recognized. Even though the recommendations would shutter the undergraduate program and strengthen the graduate, Cham worried about the message such a shift would send to funders and to other universities. "Howard has always been looked at as a trailblazer," he said. "We don’t believe that Howard is running away from African studies, but I think the way that it is going to be interpreted is that there is a diminished commitment."

Others argued that cutting back on their programs would diminish Howard's unique perspective and history, and that tilting toward the STEM fields would prove misguided because they are not the university's traditional area of strength. Howard is the only historically black college that has had a classics program since its inception, said Rudolph Hock, associate professor and chair of the classics department and it recently has produced a Rhodes Scholar. Despite its orientation to the ancient past, it holds applicability to other disciplines, including the STEM fields, he said: a student studying medicine, for example, would benefit from understanding Hippocrates. “We’re trying to remind people that this should be embraced and supported—and even more supported,” said Hock. “We’re not rolling over and playing dead.”

Some cited the way their disciplines inform Howard's mission. "The largest and most general problem that philosophy solves is self-knowledge," said Charles Verharen, professor of philosophy. Such an endeavor carries a special meaning at Howard, Verharen argued, because students there are taught to study not only canonical Western philosophy, but also the intellectual traditions of Africa. "Coming to self-knowledge for African Americans has been distorted for 500 years using the tools of science, economics and politics," said Verharen.

Still other scholars worried about the wider ripple effects a cut to programs at Howard would create. “The consequences of a closure will not only negatively impact students and faculty at our institution, but it will also have a bearing on the discipline of anthropology overall, the African American community, and other peoples of African descent," Flordeliz T. Bugarin, Eleanor King, Mark Mack and Arvilla Payne-Jackson, who are members of Howard's combined sociology and anthropology department, wrote in this month's issue of Anthropology News. Closing the undergraduate major would hamper the field's recruitment of minority students, the professors argued. It also would imperil nine research projects now under way, from work at New York City's African burial ground to research at James Island, a locus of the Gambian slave trade.

‘The Uniqueness of Howard’

Program reviews are far from rare, especially as the sagging national economy straps college budgets and forces institutions to make tough choices. These reviews tend to be imbued with the ethos of the marketplace, often measuring a discipline's relevance by the number of its graduates, among other indicators. They often pit “practical” education against the classical liberal arts. And many in the liberal arts feel their traditions are not being valued as they should.

A similar worry has been expressed at Howard. "Humanities is not the 'fat' to be trimmed for [the] sake of an education favored by Washington," Alicia M. Bell, a 2002 graduate who double-majored in biology and classics, wrote recently in The Hilltop, Howard's student newspaper. "Our nation needs scientists and engineers, but more than ever, we also need highly trained scholars of the humanities to innovatively use critical thinking skills—in the tradition of Du Bois—to help provide the leadership necessary to address the most pressing challenges of our day."

A closer look at the departments singled out for cutting, merging and curtailment, however, reveals that this tension has played out less predictably at Howard: practical undergraduate fields such as hospitality management and radiation therapy were more likely to be axed than their liberal arts counterparts. Engineering fields on the master's level also face closing, though Errol C. Noel, chair of the civil engineering department, expressed confidence that his program would endure. "We, in Civil Engineering, know that we have substantial evidence to demonstrate sustained quality productivity for over a decade," Noel wrote in an e-mail, though he also supported the larger premise of the review. "I believe that the university is on the right track in reviewing programs with the aim of redefining what HU must be. Unfortunately, some programs will have to be eliminated, restructured [and] merged."

In fact, few faculty members at Howard—including those whose departments would feel the brunt of the proposed changes—disputed the need to rigorously review the university's academic offerings and make changes. Howard's historical role means that such reviews are thorny, said Verharen.

“What makes Howard’s case different is the uniqueness of Howard,” he said, citing the institution’s focus on disenfranchised and marginalized students since its charter was granted in 1867. “What we do at Howard is solve problems that other institutions may not have the interest in solving and the cultural background that would provide the most adequate solution,” he continued. “Any changes to the academic program that don’t preserve what is unique about Howard are problematic.”

Advocates for the set of changes that have been recommended stress that they are equally mindful of this obligation to Howard's role. Thornton pointed out that the cuts to undergraduate courses need to be seen in their larger context. While he acknowledged that Ribeau opted to cut some programs the commission wanted to strengthen and to bolster others that the commission wanted to scuttle, Thornton said the president sided with the commission 80 percent of the time. More important, Ribeau affirmed the two most important facets of the recommendations, as he saw them: strengthening Howard's emphasis on graduate education and altering how undergraduate courses are delivered. The changes on the undergraduate level include starting a new center for academic excellence and adopting a more interdisciplinary focus. They are meant to improve students' core skills: writing clearly and grammatically, completing applied mathematics courses, and developing critical thinking skills. "That, to me, is the important thing," said Thornton, of the two facets of the recommendations. "Those are not small changes."

How to Measure the Unmeasurable?

In addition to debate over specific departments facing closure, arguments also have surfaced over process and shared vision. Several faculty members questioned how some of the six criteria on which their programs were judged—tie to mission, academic quality, research, academic centrality and necessity, student enrollment, and sustainability—can be defined, much less evaluated.

"The six criteria seem quite reasonable as components of the evaluation process," wrote Lorenzo Morris, professor of political science, in the faculty publication, Senate Communicator. "‘Academic quality’, for example, is fundamental. Unfortunately, however, that does not make it empirical or measurable, much less quantifiable."

Thornton agreed that these categories cannot be measured precisely—and said they were never meant to be. "There was never any attempt to be completely empirical about this," he said. "The data was never said to be determinative or infallible." While commission members drew upon data, this information did not form the entire basis for their recommendations, he said. Ribeau's larger vision mattered more. "Some programs that had very good data were not necessarily viewed as being in the strategic direction in which Howard wanted to go," said Thornton.

Others criticized the composition of the commission, which was split into smaller groups and reviewed individual programs. Hock, of the classics department, noted that reviewers were not versed in his discipline specifically, or in the humanities more generally. "The composition of the commission seemed to be absurd," he said. "It’s as if they had me, a classicist, go to evaluate the pharmacy department. What do I know about that?"

Thornton said the commission's determinations were based on several factors: self-assessments, survey responses, performance data, accreditation reports, and prior program evaluations, though he also has acknowledged that there had been disagreement with the conclusions the commission reached.

He also rejected the notion that Howard's faculty had not been sufficiently and formally involved in the review process, which was a charge leveled by Verharen. The commission was composed primarily of faculty members, he said, and the vetting and review period, which is intended to solicit faculty feedback, is under way. "Howard's faculty involvement in the academic process is at an unprecedented level by Howard and comparable university standards," he wrote in an e-mail. "President Ribeau placed a high priority on this dimension of the academic renewal process."

Despite the contentious subject matter of the debate and the current set of recommendations, Ribeau has earned high marks for communication, transparency (a website has been documenting the commission's work), and, ultimately, doing what needed to be done. He assumed the presidency at Howard after serving in the same position at Bowling Green State University, where he was lauded as “charismatic, funny, accessible and a model of collaboration, commitment and cooperation.”

Some Howard faculty voiced similar impressions. "It's high time that this be done," said Verharen, adding that Ribeau had taken vital steps to reform the administration; for example, the president made the university's budget more public. "He’s done a remarkable job with trying to change the administrative structure of Howard."

5 November 2010

Source: InsideHigherEducation

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Howard University Board Approves Academic Renewal Plan, Two Residence Halls

WASHINGTON (Jan. 29, 2011) – Today, the Howard University Board of Trustees led by Board Chairman A. Barry Rand unanimously approved an academic renewal plan and the construction of two residence halls. The plans will continue the University’s historic mission of enriching student learning opportunities, strengthening graduate and professional programs as well as advancing research initiatives.

“The Board’s approval of the President’s recommendations represents an important milestone in the history of the University and culminates extraordinary collaborative work by the University’s faculty, students, staff and alumni," Rand said.

Howard University President Sidney A. Ribeau presented his recommendations to the Board during this week’s meeting of the full board after an inclusive process that engaged and sought input from every segment of the University and academic community.

“Universities must periodically review and assess themselves to respond to developments in higher education and the changing needs of our nation and the world,” Ribeau said. “At Howard, we are doing just that. We must maintain the highest standards of academic and administrative excellence.”

The academic renewal plan approved by the Board achieves six major strategic goals:

Revises the model for the delivery of undergraduate education and increases interdisciplinary academic programming;

Strengthens the University’s commitment to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), health sciences disciplines and research;

Advances Africana and Diaspora Studies to make Howard the leading University in the field;

Enhances humanities, communication, urban education, business, performing and visual arts academic programs and interdisciplinary studies;

Increases the University’s commitment to internationalism and global studies;

Streamlines and focuses graduate and professional offerings and encourages increased research

Among the current 171-degree programs offered, 71 undergraduate, graduate and professional programs were recommended for restructuring or closure—22 undergraduate, 11 graduate and 38 graduate professional programs. Students enrolled in modified or closed programs will be given an opportunity to complete their degrees, and program tenured faculty will not lose their positions.

“Historically, Howard had to offer a comprehensive range of programs to meet the demand of students of color who were unable to attend other universities,” Ribeau said. “We no longer have to be everything to everyone. We have identified specific areas of emphasis and we plan to be leaders in those areas.”

The academic renewal initiative includes the restructuring of the core undergraduate curriculum and the creation of a single “freshman experience" for all entering students, regardless of their school or division. In addition, existing STEM programs will be improved to increase cutting-edge learning opportunities to prepare graduates for careers in such rapidly growing fields as nanotechnology. The Board also approved the President’s recommendations to retain Bachelors degrees in African Studies and Philosophy. View Full Academic Program Changes.

The Board has approved the construction of two new residence halls along the Fourth Street corridor creating a new undergraduate residential village on the east side of the University's main campus. The sites include the old Bethune Hall as well as Fourth and Bryant Streets, currently Bethune Annex parking lot. The residential complexes combined will provide housing for more than 1300 students, and strongly support President Ribeau's New Academic Renewal Plan for the University.

The final phase of the academic renewal process began in 2008 after the Board charged Ribeau to “renew the academic enterprise.” In fall 2009, Ribeau established the Presidential Commission on Academic Renewal (PCAR) as part of the academic renewal process, and Howard began a faculty-led comprehensive review of all its academic offerings. The overarching goal was to ensure that all programs are consistent with the University’s mission and resources are aligned with its academic priorities.

In Fall 2010, the Commission submitted its final report to the President recommending a series of university-wide enhancements and program-specific mergers, transformations, additions and eliminations. Ribeau presented a set of university-wide enhancements and program-specific adjustments for review and comment from the university community. This review process continued for an additional three months. The period of deliberation was fruitful; faculty and other stakeholders offered alternative proposals, which were included in the final plan approved by the Board. Read more on Academic Renewal.

Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 12 schools and colleges.  Founded in 1867, students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Since 1998, the University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, two Truman Scholars, a Marshall Scholar, 21 Fulbright Scholars and 11 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, call 202-238-2330, or visit the University’s Web site at

You are invited to view: The Academic Program Review Process (video) | Uniqueness of Howard University Discussion (video) | An Interview with the Chair Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 (video)

Source: Howard

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Fisk alums call for O'Leary's resignation—By Jennifer Brooks—THE TENNESSEAN November 10, 2010—A group of high-profile Fisk alumni are calling for the university’s embattled president, Hazel O’Leary, to resign.

“We have lost confidence in Hazel O’Leary’s leadership as president of Fisk and, reluctantly, have come to the painful judgment that she should be asked to resign,” the letter began. “As well, we have serious concerns about the collective wisdom of the Board of Trustees in apparently endorsing and supporting decisions made by and the performance of Ms. O’Leary that imperil the university.”

The letter, signed by 18 Fisk alumni, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, was delivered to Robert Norton, president of the Fisk board, on Oct. 15, and shared with Fisk faculty over the weekend. . . .

The letter was signed by alumni who include Pulitzer-prize winning author David Levering Lewis, Vanderbilt professor Lucius T. Outlaw Jr., and a high-profile list of graduates who include ambassadors, physicians, academics and retired military.

Collectively, they blasted the university’s leadership for attempting to sell off the art collection that artist Georgia O’Keeffe had entrusted to the school from her late husband’s collection. The authors also blasted the university for allowing its attorneys to argue in court “the emotionally bankrupt and morally egregious declaration that art created by Caucasians is of no relevance to the education of Fisk’s African American students, only art created by African Americans.” In court, O’Leary argued that the art sale is the only way to keep the university from closing its doors. The university runs a $2 million annual budget deficit, has mortgaged every building on campus and has no money left in its discretionary endowment fund.Tennessean

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Frank Snowden Now An Ancestor

Major Scholar of Blacks in Antiquity


Frank M. Snowden Jr. passed away on February 18 of this year in Washington, D.C., after a long and celebrated life in a variety of professional vocations—instructor, scholar, administrator, diplomat. The classics world can justifiably claim that it has lost one of its giants. Professor Snowden graduated from the Boston Latin School in 1928 and proceeded to Harvard University, where he was awarded his bachelor's (1932), master's (1933), and doctoral (1944) degrees in classics.

He began his professional career as an instructor in Latin, French, and English at Virginia State College (1933–1936) and then moved to Spelman College and Atlanta University, where he was an instructor in classics (1936–1940). From then until 1990 he was a member of the faculty at Howard University  . . . . —WashingtonPost

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An Impending Death for Anthropology at Howard University—28 October 2010—written by Flordeliz T. Bugarin, Eleanor King, Mark Mack and Arvilla Payne-Jackson of Howard University—Without a program at Howard U., anthropology stands to be further distanced from the African American population.  Of 105 HBCUs nationally, only 36% offer anthropology courses.  Out of these, the vast majority (87%) has only a few classes, and most of the offerings primarily service sociology programs, with no degree option.  Two colleges (Coppin State College and Morgan State University) offer minors in anthropology.  Three institutions offer a major:  Lincoln, Spelman, and Howard Universities.  Lincoln and Spelman only bestow degrees in cultural anthropology.  Howard’s program is unique among HBCUs in requiring students to take classes in all five sub-fields, including applied anthropology.  It has launched a number of professionals in all these fields and is singularly well positioned to make further contributions to the discipline because of the nature of the University itself.

Howard has a wide-diversity of black students from all over the world.    Approximately 11,000 students enroll at the university on an annual basis.  Out of that student body, about 9% come from Washington, D.C.; 75% come from states throughout the United States; 11% are international students that represent 91 countries and U.S. possessions; and 5% are international students who are permanent U.S. residents (, accessed October 1, 2010).  In addition there is a huge variation in socioeconomic background that adds to that diversity.  In any given year, the University witnesses a gamut of students graduating, from the homeless to the children of millionaires. It is the perfect place to recruit and train minority students; and it is the ideal place to encourage black students to give back to under-served black and other populations around the world.  Regardless of major, our program offers Howard students the ability to be more culturally aware in a global community, develop explanations about cultural similarities and differences, and create better solutions to the world’s most challenging problems.

Perhaps the state of anthropology at Howard University is a microcosm of the status of the discipline overall.  Until recently the American Anthropological Association (AAA), in keeping with its stance on race, has not kept track of minority members.  However, sections and interest groups can give some idea of the overall numbers. As of 2008 all sections and interest groups with significant numbers of minority members made up less than 16% of the 11,000 registered members (King 2008).  The actual number was and is still undoubtedly much lower as many of the groups have a significant number of majority members as well.  The Association of Black Anthropologists, for example, had 329 members in 2008, or 3% of the total, but a number of them were of other ethnicities (King 2008).AANET

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Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Edited by Charles L. Betsey

Beginning in the 1830s, public and private higher education institutions established to serve African-Americans operated in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Border States, and the states of the old Confederacy. Until recently the vast majority of people of African descent who received post-secondary education in the United States did so in historically black institutions. Spurred on by financial and accreditation issues, litigation to assure compliance with court decisions, equal higher education opportunity for all citizens, and the role of race in admissions decisions, interest in the role, accomplishments, and future of Historically Black Colleges and Universities has been renewed. This volume touches upon these issues. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are a diverse group of 105 institutions.

They vary in size from several hundred students to over 10,000. Prior to Brown v. Board of Education, 90 percent of African-American postsecondary students were enrolled in HBCUs. Currently the 105 HBCUs account for 3 percent of the nations educational institutions, but they graduate about one-quarter of African-Americans receiving college degrees. The competition that HBCUs currently face in attracting and educating African-American and other students presents both challenges and opportunities. Despite the fact that numerous studies have found that HBCUs are more effective at retaining and graduating African-American students than predominately white colleges, HBCUs have serious detractors.

Perhaps because of the increasing pressures on state governments to assure that public HBCUs receive comparable funding and provide programs that will attract a broader student population, several public HBCUs no longer serve primarily African-American students. There is reason to believe, and it is the opinion of several contributors to this book, that in the changing higher education environment HBCUs will not survive, particularly those that are financially weak. The contributors to this volume provide cutting-edge data as well as solid social analysis of this major concern in black life as well as American higher education as a whole.

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How Black Colleges Empower Black Students

Lessons for Higher Education

Edited by Frank W. Hale, Jr.

To their disadvantage, few Americans—and few in higher education—know much about the successes of historically Black colleges and universities. How is it that historically Black colleges graduate so many low-income and academically poorly prepared students? How do they manage to do so well with students "as they are", even when adopting open admissions policies?

In this volume, contributors from a wide spectrum of Black colleges offer insights and examples of the policies and practice—such as retention strategies, co-curricular activities and approaches to mentoring—which underpin their disproportionate success with populations that too often fail in other institutions.

This book also challenges the myth that these colleges are segregated institutions and that teachers of color are essential to minority student success. HBCUs employ large numbers of non-Black faculty who demonstrate the ability to facilitate the success of African American students. This book offers valuable lessons for faculty, faculty developers, student affairs personnel and administrators in the wider higher education community–lessons that are all the more urgent as they face a growing racially diverse student population. While, for HBCUs themselves, this book reaffirms the importance of their mission today, it also raises issues they must address to maintain the edge they have achieved.

Contributors: Pamela G. Arrington; Delbert Baker; Susan Baker; Stanley F. Battle; T. J. Bryan; Terrolyn P. Carter; Ronnie L. Collins; Samuel DuBois Cook; Elaine Johnson Copeland; Marcela A. Copes; Quiester Craig; Lawrence A. Davis, Jr.; Frances C. Gordon; Frank W. Hale, Jr.; B. Denise Hawkins; Karen A. Holbrook; James E. Hunter; Frank L. Matthews; Henry Ponder; Anne S. Pruitt-Logan; Talbert O. Shaw; Orlando L. Taylor ; W. Eric Thomas; M. Rick Turner; Mervyn A. Warren; Charles V. Willie; James G. Wingate.

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Waiting For Superman | Trailer  / The Cartel Trailer / The Cartel—Local Spending

The Cartel—Corruption in Public Schools The Cartel—New Jersey Charter Schools / The Lottery Official Trailer

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House

By Lillian Rogers Parks

This memoir is based on Mrs. Park's recollections of thirty years (1931-1961) as a seamstress in the White House (the administrations of Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower) and on childhood memories of her mother's 30 years of domestic service (Margaret 'Maggie' Rogers was head housemaid at the White House from 1909-1939, also spanning several administrations).  It became a runaway Best-Seller & later NBC Produced their 11 time Emmy Nominated Mini-Series on the Life of Lillian Rogers Parks and her Mother, Maggie Rogers.—amazon review

The title of Mrs. Parks's 1961 memoirs, written with Frances Spatz Leighton, was somewhat misleading. For although Mrs. Parks worked as an observant White House seamstress and maid only from the beginning of the Hoover Administration in 1929 to the end of the Eisenhower years in 1961, she had been a familiar figure at the White House since she was a little girl. That is because her mother, Maggie Rogers, who joined the White House staff on the fourth day of the Taft Administration, would often take her daughter to work with her. And when she did not, she would come home to regale her family with stories of what she had seen or heard at the White House that day.—NYTimes

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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