Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (born 1945) is a professor of Afro-American Studies, African American Religion and the Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and African American Studies at Harvard University.[1] Higginbotham wrote Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church: 1880-1920, which won several awards. She has also received several awards for her work, most notably the 2014 National Humanities Medal.

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham
Born1945 (age 73–74)
Washington, District of Columbia United States
OccupationAfrican American History Professor

Early life and education

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham was born in 1945 to Albert Neal Dow Brooks and his wife Alma Elaine Campbell.[1] Higginbotham's father served as secretary treasurer for the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History as well as edited the organization's Negro History Bulletin. Her mother, Alma Elaine Campbell, a high school history teacher, later became the supervisor for history in the Washington, D.C. public school system.[1]

Higginbotham often accompanied her father to his work, which allowed her to encounter and become familiar with many significant early African American historians, including Rayford Logan, Charles H. Wesley and Benjamin Quarles. Higginbotham later related how this unique experience shaped her later career choice, “I knew from childhood that I wanted to teach, research, and write about the history of African Americans."[2] Stories her father told her of her family members also inspired her. Her great-grandfather, Albert Royal Brooks, was born a slave in Virginia in 1817, and after the American Civil War then began to serve on the jury to try former Confederate president Jefferson Davis.[3] Higginbotham's great-grandmother, Lucy Goode Brooks, created one of the first post-Civil War orphanages serving black children. Her grandfather, Walter Henderson Brooks, was a pastor at Nineteenth Street Baptist Church (Washington, D.C.), the oldest black Baptist congregation in Washington D.C. Higginbotham's aunt, Julia Evangeline Brooks, was one of the incorporators of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first African-American sorority.[2]

“In many ways,” Higginbotham says, “the family stories inspired me to pursue the discipline of history and gave me an appreciation of the importance of individual lives, broadly speaking, as a lens or mirror to much larger social and political contexts.”[2]

In 1969, Higginbotham received her B.A. history degree from the University of Wisconsin, then in 1974 went on to receive her M.A. history degree from Howard University.[1] In 1975 she earned a certification in Archival Administration and Record Management from the U.S. National Archives.[1] In 1977 she earned a certification in quantitative methodology in Social Science from the Newberry Library in Chicago.[1] In 1984 she received her Ph.D. degree in history from the University of Rochester.[1] She also married A. Leon Higginbotham, who would die in 1998.


Higginbothan taught American history and counseled students completing the eighth grade at Francis Parkman Jr. High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1969 to 1971.[1] After she moved to Washington D.C., she taught American history and social studies at Woodrow Wilson High School.[1] From 1974 to 1975 she worked as a manuscript research associate at Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University.[1] Higginbotham also taught history as a professor at Dartmouth College, the University of Maryland and the University of Pennsylvania.[1]

In 1993, Higginbothan became a professor of Afro-American Studies and African American Religious History at Harvard University where she still currently works today.[1] In 1990 she was named the Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and African American Studies.[1] Higginbotham became the chair of Harvard University's African American Studies department in 2006 and served as acting-director of the W.E.B Du Bois Institute for African American Research in 2008.[1] Higginbotham was also appointed as the Inaugural John Hope Franklin Professor of American Legal History at Duke University Law School.[1]

Publications and work

Higginbotham's writing spans a variety of diverse topics which include African American religious history, women's history, civil rights, constructions of racial and gender identity, electoral politics and the combination and intersection of theory and history.

Higginbotham's most notable piece of work is her book Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church: 1880–1920. This book won numerous awards including awards from the American Historical Association, the American Academy of Religion], the Association of Black Women Historians and the Association for Research on Non-Profit and Voluntary Organizations. Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church: 1880-1920 was also on the New York Times Book Review's Notable Books of the Year in both 1993 and 1992.[4]

Higginbotham has also revised and re-written African American history survey From Slavery to Freedom, which was originally published in 1947 by John Hope Franklin. She has worked with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as a co-editor of the African American National Biography which is a twelve-volume resource of information that presents African American history in over 5,000 biographical entries.[5] Her article "African American Women's History and the Metalanguage of Race," won the best article prize of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians in 1993 and continues to be one of her most cited and reprinted articles.[4]

Higginbotham has won numerous awards throughout the years for her books, publications and research. In 1994 she received the Scholar's Medal of the University of Rochester. In 2000 she was awarded the YWCA of Boston's Women of Achievement Award.[4] In 2003 Harvard University chose Higginbotham to be a Walter Channing Fellow in recognition of her achievements in history.[1] In March 2005, Higginbotham was included in AOL Black Voice's "Top 10 Black Women in Higher Education." Higginbotham received several awards in 2008. In April 2008 she was honored by Unity First for preserving African-American History.[4] In August 2008 she was awarded the Legend Award by Urban League and in October 2008 she was awarded the Carter G. Woodson Scholars Medallion by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. She was also inducted into the American Philosophical Society for promoting useful knowledge in 2010.[5] Higginbotham was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from Howard University in 2011. In 2012 she was honored with the Living Legacy award by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH) and was also awarded the Joan Kelly Memorial Prize in Women’s History from the American Historical Association and the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Award from the Association of Black Women Historians.[1]

In May 2012 Higginbotham received the Star Family Prize for Excellence in Advising for her guidance and mentor ship of a Harvard undergraduate. Heidelberg University awarded her the James. W.C. Pennington Award in July 2013 for her contributions to African American Religious History. Higginbotham received the Honorary Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2014. During the academic year 2013–14 she was the John Hope Franklin Fellow at the National Humanities Venter in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Most recently in March 2015, Higginbotham was named one of the "Top 25 Women in Higher Education" by Diverse Magazine. The most notable award Higginbotham has received was the 2014 National Humanities Meal which was awarded to her by President Barack Obama at the White House for "illuminating the African American journey.”[5][6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Higginbotham, Evelyn. "Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham". The History Makers. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Williams, Chad. "Awards & Honors: 2014 National Humanities Medalist Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham". National Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  3. ^ Snowden-McCray, Lisa. "Evelyn B. Higginbotham, African American Historian Honored with White House Medal". AFRO. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d Higginbotham, Evelyn. "DR. EVELYN BROOKS HIGGINBOTHAM". The Legacy for Dr. John Hope Franklin. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c "Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham". Harvard University. Faculty of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  6. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (4 September 2016). "National Humanities Medal Winners Include Larry McMurtry and Alice Waters". ArtsBeat. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
African American National Biography Project

The African American National Biography Project is a joint project of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University and Oxford University Press. Editors are Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham.

The object of the project is to publish and maintain a database of African Americans similar in scope to the American National Biography. The Executive Editors of the project are Steven Niven of the WEB Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and Tony Aiello of Oxford University Press.

The African American National Biography was published in 2008. The database includes many entries by noted scholars, among them Sojourner Truth by Nell Irvin Painter; W. E. B. Du Bois by Thomas Holt; Rosa Parks by Darlene Clark Hine; Miles Davis by John Szwed; Muhammad Ali by Gerald Early; and President Barack Obama by Randall Kennedy. In 2008 the AANB was selected as a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, was named a Library Journal Best Reference work, and awarded Booklist Editors’ Choice — TOP OF THE LIST.

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According to Harlem Renaissance Lives (edited by Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham), Davenport and Carr met in 1922 and toured the Theater Owners Bookers Association as "Davenport and Company". Eight songs were released by Vocalion Records in the vaudevillian duet style. The band broke up when Dora left Davenport for another man, whom she later married.

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Julia A. J. Foote

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Kate Drumgoold

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Lewis Temple

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Mattie Hite

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Minnie Buckingham Harper

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Misogynoir is misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles in bias. It was coined by queer black feminist Moya Bailey, who created the term to address misogyny directed toward black women in American visual and popular culture. Trudy of Gradient Lair, a womanist blog about black women and art, media, social media, socio-politics and culture, has also been credited in developing the lexical definition of the term.The concept is grounded in the theory of intersectionality which analyzes how various social identities such as race, gender, class, and sexual orientation interrelate in systems of oppression.

Respectability politics

Respectability politics or the politics of respectability refers to attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as being continuous and compatible with dominant values rather than challenging the mainstream for what they see as its failure to accept difference. The concept was first articulated in 1993 by Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham in her book Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880–1920. In the context of black American history, respectability politics was practiced as a way of attempting to consciously set aside and undermine cultural and moral practices thought to be disrespected by wider society, especially in the context of the family and good manners. The development of African-American politics of respectability has been traced to writers and activists including W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, and has been used as a way of understanding the election and political trajectory of Barack Obama. President Obama has also been criticized for his use of respectability politics during his presidency, as when he brought up issues of black criminality during his speech following the November 24 grand jury decision regarding the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. One of the most open proponents of respectability politics is former basketball player Charles Barkley.

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William E. Harmon Foundation

The Harmon Foundation was established in 1922 by wealthy real-estate developer and philanthropist William E. Harmon (1862-1928). It originally supported a variety of causes, including playgrounds and nursing programs, but is best known for having served as a large-scale patron of African-American art that helped gain recognition for African-American artists who otherwise would have remained largely unknown. Mary B. Brady was the director of the foundation from 1922 until its cessation in 1967.

The William E. Harmon Foundation Award for Distinguished Achievement Among Negroes was created in 1926. It was known as an award for excellence in the visual arts, but was offered for distinguished achievement in many different fields among Negroes or in the cause of race relations. This helped art education programs grow in many areas. Among the many recipients of the awards were Hale Woodruff, Palmer Hayden, Archibald Motley (his winning piece was The Octoroon Girl), Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes.

In addition to the awards, the Foundation is well known for its traveling exhibitions. An annual Exhibition of the Work of Negro Artists, conceived by Mary Brady, was held in 1927 through 1931, 1933, and 1935. Laura Wheeler Waring was one of the artists featured the first year of the exhibitions, and the Foundation commissioned her to do portraits of prominent African Americans. The traveling exhibitions awarded "substantial prizes" together with gold, silver and bronze medals. According to Gates and Higginbotham, "...submissions in the fine arts category was the chief venue open to African American artists."The Foundation operated until 1967.

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