The first chair of the Afro-American Studies Department died this weekend after a long illness in the Bedford Veteran's Administration Hospital. He was 79.
Professor of Afro-American Studies Emeritus Ewart Guinier, who started the Afro-Am Department in 1969, was also a trade unionist and the first Black to run for Manhattan Borough President in 1949.
"I have always done what I thought was the best thing to do, regardless of whether people called me a `radical.' I never responded to that nomenclature," Guinier said in a 1983 interview. "I never made a unilateral decision--I always felt there was something that I could learn from my colleagues. My goal was to be forth-right, and to support the fight against injustice."
In 1969 Guinier was awarded an honorary master's from Harvard and appointed as chair of the fledgling Afro-Am Department. He stepped down as chair in 1976, and left Harvard in 1980.
Guinier was born in Panama, raised in Jamaica and educated in the Boston public school system. He attended Harvard from 1929-31, but left the University for financial reasons and completed his education at New York City College. He received his master's from Columbia University.
From 1948-53 Guinier was the Secretary-Treasurer of the United Public Workers (UPW), the forerunner of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers. The UPW was purged from the AFL-CIO during the communist scare of the 1950s.
He was Associate Director of the Urban Center at Columbia University before comming to Harvard.