The Fellows Program is at the heart of the activities of the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute. Started in 1975 as the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, the Institute has annually appointed scholars who conduct individual research for a period of one to two semesters in a wide variety of fields related to African and African American Studies. With a record of supporting more than 300 Fellows since its founding, the Institute has arguably done more in its short existence to ensure the scholarly development of African and African American Studies than any other pre-doctoral or post-doctoral program in the United States.
Fellows work in a range of fields and interests, including art and art history, Afro-Latin American research, design and the history of design, education, hiphop, African studies, the African diaspora, African American studies, literature, and creative writing.
Many former Fellows became major figures in the field, including George Frederickson (Stanford University), Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (Harvard University), Nellie McKay (University of Wisconsin), Nell Irvin Painter (Princeton University), Arnold Rampersad (Stanford University), and Cornel West (Princeton University). Additionally, numerous scholars who came to the Institute as junior faculty members are now senior scholars in academic departments throughout the United States, and in Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Latin America, and several African countries.
A residential appointment at the Du Bois Institute offers considerable benefits to any scholar. We provide office space and a computer, use of a research assistant, and Fellows have full access to the extensive research and library resources of Harvard University. The Institute also houses the Image of the Black in Western Art archive and library, and a small reference library which is open to unlimited use during a Fellows’ term of appointment.
At the Du Bois Research Institute, scholars may pursue their research while interacting with other visiting scholars working at Harvard University. Fellows are expected to participate in a number of activities, including Fellows’ Workshops and, importantly, the weekly colloquium. Chaired by the Institute's Director, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the colloquia offer Fellows the opportunity to share their work with Institute colleagues, Harvard faculty, graduate students, and others. Colloquia also allow Harvard faculty and visitors to present work in progress, and we have hosted presentations by Wole Soyinka, A. Leon Higginbotham, Ira Berlin, Orlando Patterson, Jamaica Kincaid, Hazel V. Carby, Zadie Smith, and many others.
The colloquia occur every Wednesday between 12:00 noon and 1:30 p.m. during the academic year and take place in the Thompson Room on the first floor of the Barker Center. Each presentation lasts approximately an hour, followed by open discussion. Media facilities and staffing are available and Fellows are encouraged to take advantage of the media resources for their presentations. The Harvard community and the surrounding Cambridge and Boston communities are invited and are welcome to bring a lunch. Attendance is required of all Institute Fellows.
Du Bois Fellows also have the opportunity to meet scholars from other Harvard Fellows Programs, such as the Kennedy School of Government, the Center for International Affairs, the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life, the Center for the Study of World Religions, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Humanities Center, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, the Loeb Fellows of the Graduate School of Design, and the Nieman Foundation.
How to Apply
The Hutchins Center community is rich in programming and opportunities to network with scholars engaged in African and African American research. We ask Fellows to reside in the Cambridge-Boston area during the term of their appointments and to take maximum advantage of their office spaces in the Du Bois Research Institute. Additionally, we expect them to participate fully in the orientation activities, the weekly fellows colloquium series at which fellows present their work in progress, fellows workshops which are forums for in-depth explorations of aspects of their current projects, and the occasional social hour.
We also encourage Fellows to make frequent appearances at major Hutchins Center events which are centered on lecture series or panel discussions and sometimes supplemented with social functions. These occasions provide scope to interact with other fellows, faculty, and scholars at Harvard University and other institutions.
The Fellows Program, the oldest of the Du Bois Research Institute’s activities, invites up to twenty scholars to be in residence each year, reflecting the interdisciplinary breadth of African and African American Studies. The Institute has appointed Fellows since its founding in 1975 and supports research at both the predoctoral and postdoctoral levels.
Du Bois Research Institute Fellows are truly international, including scholars from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
The fellowship program has supported more than 300 alumni, many of whom are now major figures in the field, and include Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (Harvard University), Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, Deborah Willis (NYU), Carla Kaplan (Northeastern), David Blight (Yale), Darlene Clark-Hine (Northwestern), Louis Wilson (Smith College), Stephen Tuck (Oxford), Omar Wasow (Princeton,) Thomas Cripps (Morgan State), the late Nellie McKay, Arnold Rampersad (Stanford), and Cornel West (Princeton). Numerous scholars who came to the Institute as junior faculty members are now tenured members of African American Studies and other departments in the United States, Europe, Latin America, and several African countries.
Our fellows also enjoy the company of other fellows and scholars from the Harvard community, including the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, the Global History Seminar, and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism. Many of our fellows build strong bonds with faculty and graduate students in the Department of African and African American Studies. The aim of the fellowship program is to provide a vibrant environment in which to write, study, collaborate, and thrive.
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