Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Unmasking the Boston Brahmin: Race and liberalism in the long struggle for reform at Harvard and Radcliffe, 1945–1990
by Richmond, Afrah Daaimah, Ph.D., New York University, 2011, 280; 3454486
Abstract (Summary)

This study explores the role of race and liberalism in the construction of the struggle to reform Harvard and Radcliffe from 1945-1990. Black students and academics organized along the basis of race in order to push through a reform agenda. The program for reform began in the postwar period to protest individual instances of racial injustice and to broadly inform the campus population of black contributions to civilization. This group rallied against the slow progress of racial integration into the social and academic life of a university that professed to have a liberal ideology that supported reform. Student protest in the late 1960s brought about definitive agreements that included an increase in black admissions, more black faculty and administrative hires, and the creation of a black studies department and institute.

There was a long struggle because Harvard and Radcliffe lacked the institutional will to implement the racial program of reform in a robust and complete manner during each historical period. The Boston Brahmin construct describes the white administrators who were in the position of power to make the bureaucratic changes but proceeded incrementally in the cause of racial integration. When the Brahmins expanded to include black and white administrators by the 1970s, Harvard's institutional position changed slightly in order to accommodate the new affirmative action policy. The lack of willingness to implement reform, while exhibiting change over time, was tied to a liberal ideology that was avowedly centrist.

The cause of black integration into the northern university was given its power and momentum through the organizing efforts of black students and intellectuals and their allies. The periods of conflict and consensus between students and adults helped to steer the course during the long struggle. Without the collective action on the part of these groups and the intervention of great domestic and international movements of the postwar era, racial reform would not have occurred. Although the Afro-America Studies department rested on secure institutional ground in 1990, black faculty hires and black admissions numbers were below what reformers wanted. The cause of racial reform, therefore, remained an ongoing struggle.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Zimmerman, Jonathan L.
Commitee: Cohen, Robert P., Sammons, Jeffrey T.
School: New York University
Department: Humanities and Social Sciences in the Professions
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 72/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: African American Studies, Black history, Education history, Higher education
Keywords: African American Student Movements, Black Power, College integration, Discrimination in higher education, Harvard University, Liberalism, Massachusetts, Radcliffe College
Publication Number: 3454486
ISBN: 978-1-124-64038-9
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