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, the most important of which is 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.