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Afro-American Studies-What's Going On Here?

A History in Documents of the Rosovsky Report, The Afro Protest, and the Space in Between


(After the assassination of Martin Luther King last April, the Faculty set up a special committee to study the problems of black students at Harvard and the role of Afro-American Studies in the Harvard curriculum. In January, the committee finally released its report. It urged the Faculty to set up a degree program in Afro-American Studies, and the Faculty voted on February 11 to approve the plan. Selected sections of the Rosovsky Report dealing with the Afro-American Studies program follow. Deleted clauses refer to criteria for selecting Faculty, expansion of Afro-American-oriented courses in established departments, and development of an Afro-American Studies research center.)

A Program for Harvard

IN OUR opinion, the status quo with respect to Afro-American Studies at Harvard is not satisfatcory. Quite a number of courses recognize the existence of black men in the development of America; quite a bit of expertise is already available. However, merely recognizing black men as integral segements of certain overall social processes is not good enough. We are dealing with 25 million of our own people with a special history, culture, and range of problems.

It can hardly be doubted that the study of black men in America is a legitimate and urgent academic endeavor. If is be so and if we are determined to launch this field of study successfully, farsighted goals and programs are required. These goals and programs should maintain and even raise academic standards; should have meaning for all serious students--black and white. We believe that the path proposed by us conforms to these standards.


We recommend that the University commit itself to the following goals with regard to Afro-American Studies:

1) Development of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Afro-American Studies.

2) Appointment of new faculty members--term, tenure, and visiting--in Afro-American Studies and other degree-granting programs within the University to conduct these degree programs and offer appropriate courses.

3) Greater emphasis on the experience of Afro-Americans in courses offered by Departments and Committees.

4) Stimulation of increased research in Afro-American Studies, throughout the University.

5) The establishment of a research center or institute concerned with Afro-American Studies.

6) Generation of funds to achieve these goals and others which will emerge over time.

Recommended Action

In order to implement these goals, we urge the following actions, to be undertaken immediately:

1) Appointment of a standing Faculty Committee on Afro-American Studies and budgeting of funds to implement the program development activities outline below.

2) At the earliest possible time, this Committee should consult with the President concerning the appointment, possibly as a University Professor, of a distinguished scholar deeply concerned with Afro-American Studies and identified with the black American experience and community. The person appointed to this Professorship should be invited to assume the Chairmanship of the Afro-American Studies Committee.

3) Until the Professor is appointed, the Dean of the Faculty should serve as Chairman of the Committee to emphasize the University's concern for the program, as has been the case since the reorganization of General Education.

4) The Committee will recommend an appropriate number of tenure, term, and visiting appointments. These appointments may by made jointly with another Committee or Department, or entirely within the Committee on Afro-American Studies. The number of appointments will be determined by the nature of the programs developed by the Committee and the availability of qualified scholars and teachers. We feel, however, that it would be difficult to begin adequate degree programs without at least ten specialists in at least six areas of Afro-American Studies: history, sociology, political science, economics, and literature and the arts. The importance of visiting faculty should be continually emphasized. Many prominent scholars in the field have strong commitments elsewhere. Their experience and wisdom would, however, be helpful to Harvard in planning, launching, and developing its program.

5) In making appointments, the Committee and the University should note that many men and women, with considerable competence and national reputations in aspects of Afro-America Studies, have not, for various reasons, acquired the normal, academic credentials. This point is particularly applicable to people who have been active in efforts to create economic, social and legal and political change in recent years. Special efforts should be made to invite such people to serve as visiting members of the faculty and fellows of the Center or Institute.

6) By September, 1969, the University should have secured the appointment of at least ten tenure, term and visiting faculty members. Appointments should be made so that at least five of these new faculty members will be able to begin teaching by September, 1969.

7) The Afro-American Studies Committee should encourage the development of course offerings in this area within existing Departments by present members of the faculty. The Committee and Departments should give serious consideration to appropriately structured courses involving community field work.

8) The Committee should arrange for free inter-departmental inter-change of faculty and students in order to made tutorial and independent study in Afro-American Studies available to interested students. The Committee may need to establish an adivsory mechanism to enable students to focus on Afro-American Studies within existing fields of concentration.

9) At the earliest possible time, the Committee should organize and add to Harvard course offerings, a colloquium or colloquia open to students ilnterested in Afro-American Studies. It should work with other Departments and other Committees to insure that concentration credit will be awarded for these colloquia.

10) The Committee should begin discussion leading toward the development of an undergraduate degree program in Afro-American Studies. This degree should be available to students in the class of 1972--those presently freshmen. The most feasible way to make such a degree possible for this class may be toconceive the program as a combination of Afro-American Studies and an existing concentration. The Committee would offer colloquia and possibly tutorial and arrange in conjunction with existing concentrations for the evaluation of students in these combined programs. We emphasize that this is not necessarily the final form the undergraduate program will have. The Committee will make recommendations based on its experience and the ideas introduced by new members of the faculty. It is not appropriate, at this time, to speculate on the form, content, even the size of the proposed undergraduate program in Afro-American Studies.

11) Priority should be given to development of the undergraduate program. The Committee should, however, consider ways and means to create combine and/or separate graduate degree programs in Afro-American Studies.

14) The Committee should be restructured periodically in order to include new members of the Faculty.

15) The Committee on Afro-American Studies should immedately appoint a personnel committee to seek faculty members as outlined in paragraphs 2, 3, and 6. This personnel committee should be composed of an equal number of faculty and student members, in recognition of the students' high degree of interest, knowledge, and competence in this emerging, and in some ways unique study. Student members should be selected by arrangement with the Ad Hoc Committee of Black Students and in consultation with other interested student groups.

16) It is hoped that the Committee on Afro-American Studies will add to its membership, at the discretion of the Committee and for certain particular purposes, student members as well as visiting faculty.

(On April 7, the Standing Committee in Afro-American Studies held a meeting for potential concentrators and announced the outlines of a concentration plan for next year. Although the plan was intended to be temporary and changeable, it caused immediate outrage among many of the students who saw it. It used the formal language and strict format of the standard "Rules Relating to College Studies," and it told students that they would have to combine their Afro-American Studies major with a major in an "Allied Field." Students would have to take sophomore tutorial in the Allied Field, and their junior and senior generals would also be in the Allied Field. Two days after the plan was announced, the Association of African and Afro-American Students (Afro) released the following statement:)

THE EVENTS at Harvard the past week at indicative of a rising national ambience of traditional American militarism and racism. Nixon's promises of peace and reconcilation proved their emptiness when Clifford Alexander was fired; troops arrived in the Chicago ghetto three hours after minor disturbances and the Paris peace talks moved into another inconclusive month. Harvard's winter of pledges to Afro and SDS came to spring putrescence with the resort to violence and denial of Black Studies.

As students of Harvard University, and as Black students in a white environment, we join with all other members of the Harvard community in deploring and condemning acts if brutality perpetrated by the Administration against students in the University Hall demonstration. That certain students should feel that the only way to insure getting the Administration's attention is to occupy a building is less surprising than the Administration's response that the only way to negotiate with these students was through the good offices of our local storm troops.

We think we owe due recognition to the strength of moral convictions and courage of those students participating in the demonstration. They could into question the morality of the decision-making process of this Administration. The tactics employed by the Administration in ending the occupation were a clear indication of the brutal and insensible use of power upon which that morality is founded. In a WBZ-TV interview April 10, Mayor Sullivan of Cambridge stated, in response to a question as to what restraints the Administration put on police it called together, that the Administration did not place any restrictions on the police. It was entirely a police show. This says much about the "sincerity" and concern of the Administration for students and the University community.

The past several years have demonstrated that Harvard's Administrators have been most effective in co-opting students--among the most effective in the world. Whenever a substantive issue has been raised by students, the Administration as skillfully projected the image of giving in to the dissenter's demands, while in reality making no substantive changes. The history of Black student efforts to effect significant academic and social changes are a case in point. In the past year Black students have negotiated in good faith with the University about a series of Black demands. The results have been anything but acceptable. The Afro-American Studies program, as now conceived by the University, even if it were to be temporary, is so far from what Black students envisioned such a program to be, as to be no program on Afro-American Studies at all.

Afro-American Studies is a serious and valid intellectual discipline which has long been and must no longer be neglected by Harvard. Black students seek a field of concentration which will provide knowledge, relevance and the tools for scholarly research of the Afro-American experience. This requires a department which as the power to establish its own criteria for curriculum and generate its own courses.

We therefore demand that the Standing Committee be stripped of its powers immediately. This committee will be replaced by a temporary governing board. Half of the membership of this board will be elected by potential concentrators in the field through caucus. All official discussion of requirements and curriculum for concentrators will besuspended until such time as the head of the department and the temporary governing board meet to determine such requirements.

(In response of bitter student objection, the Standing Committee worked quickly to revise its concentration plan. After a late meeting on April 13, the Standing Committee issued a completely revamped concentration plan, which made Afro-American Studies a combined major, like History and Literature or Social Studies.)



This proposal is intended to be a guide for all students considering a degree program in Afro-American Studies. We have not yet had an opportunity to discuss the proposal fully with students and faculty members. Therefore, it is subject to revision. Furthermore, the university has not yet made the first two senior appointments in Afro-American Studies. These are anticipated shortly. Obviously the views of the incoming chairman will be important in shaping the concentration.

The challenge we face is the com- mitment to offer a program of study for the class of 1972. In the short time available, we are working hard to develop new courses and bring competent specialists to the university. Necessarily, during the coming academic year, the number of courses will be limited and the number of specialists will not be large. But we would like to stress that the committee fully recognizes its responsibility to remedy both of these situations as soon as possible.

We strongly urge other departments to enrich their offerings in this field as well as to invite additional outside specialists so that by the time the class of 1972 graduates, Harvard will have provided them with a strong and relevant course of study. This goal will require the active effort and involvement of all concerned: students, faculty, and administration.


I. BASIC REQUIREMENTS: 7 courses, including AAS 90 (sophomore colloquium) AAS 98 (junior tutorial). For present upperclassmen, the current practices with regard to entering a different field will apply here.

II. SPECIAL FIELDS: Students must choose one of the following special fields:

a. Problems and Contexts of Afro-American History and Culture

b. Problems of Political and Economic Change

c. Sociology of Race and Ethnic Relations.

The number of special fields will be expanded as student needs require and as personal and resources are increased.


1. Every student will be asked to submit a proposed plan of study to the Chairman of the AAS committee or to his chief assistant at the beginning of sophomore year. Naturally, this study plan will be subject to revision as course offerings are expanded.

2. Every student will take AAS 90 before the end of sophomore year. It will be a full year graded colloquium designed as an intensive interdisciplinary introduction to Black Studies. By the end of sophomore year, every concentrator will be expected to have completed one lower level course from a discipline related to his intended special field. This might include Ec1, Gov. 1, Soc. Rel. 10, English 10, English 70, etc. Where no lower level courses are available, as in American History, such courses as History 161 (political), 163 (social), 165 (southern), and 169 (intellectual) would be appropriate.

4. Honors candidates will take AAS 99 (devoted primarily to writing a thesis) during their senior year as an eighth course within the concentration.

5. The Committee on AAS will administer general exams to all concentrators in their junior and/or senior year designed to measure:

a. interdisciplinary understanding of Afro-American Studies.

b. specific understanding of the workings of a chosen discipline related to their special field (e.g., history, government, economics, social relations)

c. specific knowledge of a selected field in Afro-American Studies

6. Pass-Fail: The question of ungraded courses (Pass-Fail and Independent Study) has not yet been determined, but a pattern similar to those in other concentrations will be followed. Since Independent Studies will naturally play a useful role in providing flexibility, students are encouraged to consider using their ungraded options for this purpose.


Each special field (and additional fields to be created) will emphasize an area of concern within Afro-American Studies. Each one draws on the strengths of related disciplines: the first on history and the humanities, the second on political economy, the third on social relations.

A. Problems and Contexts of Afro-American History and Culture.

1. Students must take six half courses from three of the following areas:

a. African History

b. Latin American History

c. European History

d. American History

e. American Literature.

2. Also students will be required to take two half coursse chosen from a list which includes all offerings in the American Studies (see back of Rosovsky Report). Students may petition to add other relevant courses.

B. Problems in Political and Economic Change.

1. Students must take six half courses from among upper level government and economics courses, preferably at least four in one or the other.

Honors candidates who take Economics I and choose to emphasize economics in AAS 98 and AAS 99 must take at least one graded half-course from those listed under Economics, Group IV, in the Courses of Instruction (Economics 160-199) or from those in the 200 group. Honors candidates who emphasize political science must take at least one graded half-course from those listed under Government, Group I, in the Courses of Instruction (Gov. 102-108 plus Soc. Sci. 118).

2. Also, students must take two half courses from the list described in A2 above. Other courses, such as ones drawn from Math and Statistics, might prove appropriate.

C. Sociology of Race and Ethnic Relations

1. Students must take 6 half courses chosen from those listed under Social Relations (upper level) in the Courses of Instruction.

One graded half course must be taken in theory and methods of inquiry from a list including Soc. Rel. 82, 138, 197, 198r, 199, Stat. 122 and 123 and additional courses, for example, in mathematics.

Students are encouraged to take at least three half-course above the introductory level in one of the four sub-fields of Social Relations: personality psychology, social anthropology, and sociology.

2. Also, students must take two half-courses from the list described in A2 above.

(After seeing the new Afro-American Studies plan, Afro took a new stance. It said that the original proposal was clear evidence that the Standing Committee was not in close enough touch with black students. Pointing out that the impetus of the Rosovsky Report had come from students and that the report endorsed the concept of student paricipation, Afro called for a restructuring of the Afro-American Studies department. When Faculty members entered their special meeting on April 15, they received copies of the following proposal from Afro:)

We would like to preface our proposal on the future form of Harvard's Afro-American Studies Committee with a sort clarification of our motivations and our goals. We make this presentation to you, the Harvard faculty, the only decision making group that has retained its credibility in this time of crisis. We wish to make it understood that we are presenting to you today the foremost of many interests we hold, and that satisfactory resolution of this question is but a step in the ongoing process of resolving all the issues we, and others, are raising.

This proposal is a direct reaction to the April 7 report of the Standing Committee on Afro-American Studies it is a reaction to its contents and to the present mechanism by which such decisions ore made. By so blatantly violating the spirit of the Rosovsky Report, the Standing Committee has forced us to re-evaluate, to seek not only to correct the mistake that has been made, but to try to insure that such mistakes are not made in the future.

We ask that you accept this propocal in the same spirit that we present it, as a positive and justified effort to provide ourselves with a vehicle for the presentation of our views and criticisms before such mistakes are made and not, as is now the case, only after.

It has been more than one year since the Ad-Hoc Committee of Black Students at Harvard and Radcliffe began negotiations with the administration concerning Afro-American Studies. On April 7, 1969, a meeting for potential concentrators in the field was held. At this meeting, a proposal by the Standing Committee on Afro-American Studies was disclosed. This communique was a description of the field of concentration for next year. It has since been "rumored" that a change in the proposal of the Standing Committee has occurred. There has been no official communication with any black students concerning this change. This flagrant disregard for black student opinion as continued. We demand an end to this disregard.

The April 7 communique is unacceptable. The proposed format does nothing but add independent studies to the already-existing majors at this university. Further, the communique presupposes tat Afro-American Studies is less than a legitimate and valid intellectual endeavor. We reject this notion; Afro-American Studies needs no support from so-called "allied" fields.

This communique has been described as "temporary" by several members of the Standing Committee. The real truth is that the major proposed by the communique is dangerous: those members of the class of '72 will be trapped until they graduate by a major which requires a double work load. This presents anything but a "temporary" problem for these students.

Finally, this communique presents a most serious breech of promise with regards to the powers of the department head who is to be hired by the search committee. He has to determine the structure and requirements for concentrators in Afro-American Studies. The members of the Standing Committee, wo by their admission have no expertise in Afro-American Studies, had no right to determine a course of study without the aid of the incoming department head. Since the university and its administrators have proved their inability to function without out direction and control in the matter of Afro-American Studies, we deem it not only necessary, but logical and just to enter into the direction of a major which drastically affects our lives.

We demand that all official discussion of requirements and curriculum for concentrators be suspended pending the selection of faculty for Afro-American Studies. After the first two members of the faculty are selected, a temporary steering committee must be created, empowered to set temporary structure for the AAC, until the full complement of faculty is present, at which time the governing board be creating consisting of faculty members and students, one-half from Afro, one-half from potential concentrators.

Further, we demand that the faculty accept and endorse the following description of the Afro-American Studies major at Harvard.

1. The Afro-American Studies major will embody an inter-disciplinary approach.

A. The committee will generate its own courses.

B. The committee is responsible to establish its own curriculum standards and course requirements.

C. The committee will have enough flexibility in its structure to allow courses that are radical both in subject matter and approach.

D. The committee will seek out and sponsor programs with a community orientation. For example, tutorials should be supplemented or replaced by relevant field community activity.

II. The Afro-American Studies Committee will, by the terms of the Rosovsky Report, be able to hire its own instructors.

III. The Afro-American Studies Committee will have an independent budget.

IV. The temporary governing board will be replaced by a permanent board through a department-wide referendum early in the academic year 1969-1970. This governing board will be the means of inter-departmental communication as well as the policy committee of the department.

A. The powers of this committee cannot be detailed until the temporary governing board meets with the head of the department. The governing board will, however:

a. appoint the review committee for consideration of any faculty member in the department for tenure

b. work in the area of curricula reforms

c. be able to make all tenure hearings a matter of public record. These transcripts will be deleted of all embarrassing personal details.

B. The structure of the governing board will be;

a. a set number of black students elected by the black students on campus

b. a set number of concentrators in the field.

c. a set number of tenured and untenured faculty members.

d. chaired by the head of the department.

e. elected in a department-wide, referendum on a regularized basis.

(On April 17, at the Faculty's third emergency meeting, two black students cames to present Afro's view. The first--Jeffrey Howard '69, told the Faculty that Afro came in a spirit of cooperation, but that it insisted on a more adequate role in the governing of the Afro-American Studies department. The second--Wesley Profit '69--read the Faculty a resolution essentially the same as the one handed out two days earlier. The only differences were in the numbering system for the various sections, and in some of the phraseology: "demand" was shifted to "should be" in several places, for instance.

Since students could not formally offer a Faculty resolution, Stanley Cavell, Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value, worked with Afro. He helped the students redraft their proposal into a Faculty resolution, and he read that at the meeting:)


That all official discussion of requirements and of curriculum concentrators be suspended pending the selection of faculty for Afro-American Studies. After the first two members of the faculty are selected, a temporary steering committee is to be created empowered to set the temporary structure for the AAC until the full complement of faculty is present.

At that time a governing board is to be created consisting of faculty members and students, one-half from Afro, one-half from potential concentrators, to be chaired by the Chairman of the department and elected in department-wide referendum.

The faculty understands that the Afro-American Studies is to have departmental powers. By the terms of the Rosovsky Committee Report, the Afro-American Studies Committee like other departments will be able to make its own appointments and to set up criteria for determining tenure and to institute courses. The Afro-American Studies Committee is to have a budget that enables it to implement its special needs and programs.

The temporary governing board will be replaced by a permanent board through a department-wide referendum early in the academic year of 1969-1970, or as soon as possible. This governing board will be the means for inter-departmental communication as well as the policy committee of the department.

A. The powers of this committee cannot be detailed until the temporary governing board meets with the head of the department. The governing board will, however:

a. work to generate courses for the curriculum.

B. The governing board will include:

a. black students elected by black students on campus.

b. concentrators in the field elected in a department-wide referendum.

c. tenured and non-tenured faculty members.

The governing board is to be chaired by the head of the department.

(Cavell's version of the plan left out two clauses in the original Afro proposal--sections referring to a committee's power to review tenure appointments and to publish tenure hearings. Cavell said that the two clauses would be discussed at the April 22 meeting. But since he referred to them under the numbering system of the original Afro proposal--and not under the system of the revised version he had circulated among the Faculty--many professors were confused and postponed debate.

Near the end of its meeting, however, the Faculty managed to pass by acclimation a resolution by Charles Whitney, professor of Astronomy:)

"The spirit of the demands and the proposal by the representatives from Afro is that students must have a more central role in the establishment of the Afro-American Studies program. I do not think they have had a sufficient role. I move the Faculty go on record as endorsing this proposal."

(The latest official reaction to the Afro proposal came from the Corporation. In its statement last Friday, the Corporation included a paragraph alluding to black student demands,)

We are aware of the concerns of the black students as Harvard. Their special interests are now being considered by the various faculties. We share the faculties' concern and hope they will speedily find appropriate ways to meet the special interests of these students. However, we do not feel it would be appropriate for us to anticipate the actions of the faculties on these matters.

(The Faculty holds another emergency meeting Tuesday. Cavell's proposal will be on the docket, along with two others. One, by Archie C. Epps, assistant dean of the College, asks the Faculty to resolve that "new and extraordinary means be found to involve black students in the Afro-American Studies program." The other, by B. Irven DeVore, associate professor of Anthropology, suggests an interim solution of placing three students chosen by Afro on the Standing Committee, Afro representatives will probably be invited to attend Tuesday's Faculty meeting.

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