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Hutchins Center Announces 15 Du Bois Fellows

By Dev A. Patel
By Dev A. Patel and Steven R. Watros, Crimson Staff Writers

The Hutchins Center for African and African American Research announced Monday 16 W.E.B. Du Bois fellows for the 2013-2014 academic year, including a Nobel Prize-winning author and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

This semester, six new fellows will join five others who have been in residence with the program since the beginning of the fall term. Five more fellows completed their residencies last semester.

The W.E.B. Du Bois Institute normally announces the fellows at the beginning of the academic year, but waited until its absorption by the newly established Hutchins Center was completed.

“We are delighted to welcome one of our most prestigious, exciting, and diverse classes of Fellows of the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute,” Hutchings Center Director Henry Louis Gates Jr. said in a press release.

Since its creation in September, the Hutchins Center has served as the umbrella organization for roughly a dozen programs and initiatives in African and African-American studies at Harvard.

Of the 16 fellows, six will be starting fellowships this semester: David Bindman, Holly Ellis, Shose Kessi, Christopher J. Lee, Deborah Willis, and George Wilson. These six join five scholars who will continue their time at the Du Bois Institute from last semester, including Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka.

These fellows are the first class since the Institute was officially absorbed by the Hutchins Center in early October, a move which financially united seven existing initiatives with a $15 million gift from Glenn H. Hutchins '77, one of the University's most prolific donors and a co-chair of the Harvard Campaign. Nevertheless, the fellows program remains unchanged, according to Hutchins Center fellows officer Krishna Lewis.

Fellows—who are mostly professors and students—are given access to a wide range of Harvard’s resources to support their own research during the duration of the fellowship. They also participate in a variety of colloquia, lectures, discussions, and workshops focusing on African and African-American studies.

Glenn H. Hutchins '77, a leading University donor and co-chair of the Harvard Campaign, applauds medalists at the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal ceremony in  October 2013.
Glenn H. Hutchins '77, a leading University donor and co-chair of the Harvard Campaign, applauds medalists at the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal ceremony in October 2013. By Shunella Grace Lumas

“It's a true honor to be invited to take time to use this opportunity to create additional scholarship to my work,” said Willis, a leading historian on African-American photography who teaches at New York University. “The number of scholars that they have around and the resources that are a part of the Institute really help those of us who need access to images or more time for [our] work.”

Kessi, a lecturer and psychologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, joins the fellowship for the spring semester and will further her research on the effects of affirmative action, which has transformed the previously all-white University of Cape Town.

“There’s been a lot of research done on the African-American experience [in the American university system],” she said, adding that she hopes this work might help her develop her own academic endeavors.

Kessi also noted that she was looking forward to learning from and engaging with the other fellows.

Bindman, who has been a part of the Du Bois Fellowship six times before, also commented on the fellowship experience and noted that “there’s a real sense of community here. One of the best things about it is having other fellows in residence to work with.”

Lewis said that she hopes Monday’s announcement clears up confusion about the program after the institute’s structural changes.

“We usually send out these announcements at the beginning of the academic year, but we were in a bit of a quandary at the beginning of this year because we knew we were making this transition,” said Lewis, adding that “there has been this confusion about what happened to the Du Bois fellows.”

—Staff writer Dev A. Patel can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @dev_a_patel.

—Staff writer Steven R. Watros can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SteveWatros.

This article has been revised to reflect the following clarification:

CLARIFICATION: Jan. 29, 2013

An earlier version of the photo caption accompanying this article stated that the W.E.B Du Bois Institute is currently undergoing renovations to become the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. To clarify, the Institute has already been absorbed into the Hutchins Center, which is undergoing renovation.

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