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President Nominates Harvard Professor

By William B. Higgins, Crimson Staff Writer

A well-known Harvard professor of race and immigration in America has been nominated by President Bush for a position on the prestigious National Council on the Humanities.

If the Senate approves the nomination, Winthrop Professor of History Stephan Thernstrom will serve a six-year term on the 26-member council, which reviews the grants and policies of the National Endowment for the Humanities. This year, the endowment plans to give away around $105 million to projects on language, literature, history, philosophy and the arts.

Thernstrom said the council contacted him a year ago and asked whether he would be interested in a position.

After Bush officially nominated him about six months ago, Thernstrom said he had to spend “untold time” completing paperwork for an FBI background check. Now he waits for the Senate to ratify the nomination, which might take days or weeks.

“The Senate does what the Senate wants when it wants to,” he said.

He said his conservative politics might have contributed to his selection.

“While a Democratic president will nominate a liberal, a Republican will pick a conservative,” he said.

Among his numerous publications is America in Black and White, a study of the changing lives of black Americans in which he and his wife Abigail argued against affirmative action and racial preferences for minorities.

Thernstrom said members of the council focus on policy and not “hands-on management,” but he said the specifics of his role have not been spelled out for him yet.

“If in 40 years of teaching I’ve accumulated any wisdom, I hope to apply it here as a member of the council,” he said.

—Staff writer William B. Higgins can be reached at

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