African Studies | Jewish Currents

Anthropologist Melville Jean Herskovits died on this day in 1963, after a career in which he established African and African-American studies as an academic discipline. One of Franz Boas’ cohort of influential students at Columbia University (Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Edward Sapir, Zora Neale Hurston and numerous others), Herskovits founded Northwestern University’s department of anthropology in 1938 and its Program of African Studies in 1948 — the first such program in America. In 1957, he became the first president of the African Studies Association. Collaborating with his wife Frances Shapiro, he studied many aspects of African culture, including its influence on the Americas during slavery and after emancipation. His Myth of the Negro Past (1941) undermined the notion that…

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