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Nathan Irvin Huggins

Nathan Irvin Huggins

Nathan Irvin Huggins

Nathan Irvin Huggins (1927–1989), American historian, was W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of History and Afro-American Studies at Harvard University, as well as director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research.

Huggins was strongly committed to analyzing the history of African-Americans as an integral part of the history of the United States. The center of his argument was always that without an understanding of African-American history, one could not understand what is usually called American history, but rather what colleagues said could be a code for “white American history.”

At the time of his death, Huggins was working on a major biography of the late Nobel Prize-winning diplomat Ralph Bunche and on a shorter book about the civil rights movement. His book, Harlem Renaissance, published in 1971, was nominated for a National Book Award. His other writings include Black Odyssey: The Afro-American Ordeal in Slavery (1977) and Slave and Citizen: The Life of Frederick Douglass (1980).

Among Huggins’ proudest achievements at Harvard was the establishment in 1981 of the W. E. B. Du Bois Lectureship in Afro-American Life, History and Culture. Harvard students praised Huggins for the “exceptional clarity and entertaining lectures” in a course he and a colleague taught on changing concepts of race in the United States.

Courtesy of Harvard University Library

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