Shelby Receives Tenure

Racial consciousness scholar Tommie Shelby has been granted tenure in both the African and African American Studies and the philosophy departments, the University announced last week.

Shelby first joined Harvard’s faculty as an assistant professor in what was then called the Department of Afro-American Studies, and also served as a member of the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies.

“It’s a great honor to receive tenure at Harvard,” Shelby said, “It’s obviously not an easy thing to do.”

Shelby said he was drawn to Harvard by the strength of its faculty—particularly Kwame Anthony Appiah and Cornel West, who both taught at Harvard when he arrived in 2000.

“The consolidation of people in African American Studies [means that] such a strong group of people is working on issues of race, identity, and black politics—issues that I’m really interested in,” Shelby said.

Diana Sorensen, dean for the humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, praised Shelby, describing him as “wonderful and talented.”

“We should celebrate that he’s here because of the nature of his work, the quality of his mind, his integrity, and his values as a teacher,” Sorensen said.

Andrew C. Coles ’09, who took Shelby’s course on Black Nationalism and is also one of his academic advisees, called Shelby “an excellent professor” who is “very enthusiastic” about the material that he teaches.

Sorensen lauded Shelby’s ability to cross departmental boundaries, saying that he “is equally welcome in the Philosophy and African American studies department,” and that his breadth as a scholar had made him attractive to many other schools.

“He had offers from other universities and for a while we were nervous that he wouldn’t stay,” she said.

Before his time at Harvard, Shelby was an assistant professor of philosophy at Ohio State University. He graduated magna cum laude from Florida A&M; University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, and received a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh.

—Staff writer Brittany M. Llewellyn can be reached at