July-August 2008 Issue • Volume 36 • Issue 6

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Alba Delivers Huggins Lecture at Harvard

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Richard Alba

This spring, Richard Alba of the University at Albany-SUNY, a former Vice President of the ASA, became the first sociologist to deliver the prestigious Nathan I. Huggins Lectures at Harvard University. The Huggins Lectures are named after the first occupant of the W.E.B. Du Bois Professorship at Harvard. Nathan Huggins (1927-1989) was a distinguished historian, the author of the acclaimed Harlem Renaissance, among other works, and the Chair of Harvard’s Department of Afro-American Studies during a critical period.

The lectures are sponsored by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research and the Department of African and African American Studies. The purpose of this series is to bring distinguished scholars to deliver a series of three lectures focusing on topics related to African American history.

Alba’s lectures, delivered on three consecutive days, were titled, "Blurring the Color Line: Possibilities for Ethno-Racial Change in Early 21st Century America." They represented a departure from the tradition of the lectures, which have usually focused on topics in African-American history. Previous lecturers have included historians David Brion Davis, Robin D.G. Kelley, Leon Litwack, Gary Nash, and Darlene Clark Hine.

In his lectures, Alba argued that new possibilities for ethno-racial change are likely to emerge during the next quarter century as the massive baby boom retires, opening up the labor market in a way that has not happened for decades. He suggested that the resulting "non-zero-sum mobility" could be analogous to that which facilitated the assimilation of the white ethnics in the period immediately following World War II.

The series is co-sponsored by the Harvard University Press, which publishes a book based on each Huggins lecture series. Alba expects the book based on his lectures to appear in 2009. small_green

 

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