Five Black Scholars Elected Fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

aaasThe American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) recently announced the selection of 197 new members, including 16 new fellows from foreign nations. Membership in the academy is offered to leaders in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, arts, business, public affairs and the nonprofit sectors.

The academy was founded in 1780. Members have included George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Margaret Meade and Martin Luther King Jr. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel Prize winners.

Through an analysis of the list of new fellows conducted by JBHE, it appears that eight of the new members of the AAAS are Black. Five of the eight have current ties to the academic world.

(L to R) Christopher U. Abani, Roland G. Fryer Jr., George E. Lewis, James McBride, and Neil deGrasse Tyson

Christopher U. Abani is the Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He is a graduate of the State University of Nigeria. He holds a master’s degree from the University of London in England and a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Roland G. Fryer Jr. is the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University. He is the youngest African American to be awarded tenure at Harvard. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, Professor Fryer holds a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University.

George E. Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University in New York City. He has taught at Columbia University since 2004. Earlier in his career, Professor Lewis taught at the University of California, San Diego. Professor Lewis is a graduate of Yale University.

James McBride is a Distinguished Writer-In-Residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. He is the author of The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother (Riverhead, 1997) and the novel Miracle at St. Anna (Riverhead, 2003). McBride later wrote the screenplay for the 2008 film Miracle at St. Anna, which was directed by Spike Lee. McBride is a graduate of Oberlin College and holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is the Frederick Rose Director and astrophysicist at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. In 2014 he was host of the Fox television series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Dr. Tyson is a graduate of Harvard University. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Texas and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Columbia University.

Among the other new African American fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences are journalist A’Lelia Bundles, actress and singer Audra A. McDonald, and Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. Walker holds bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Texas and previously taught at the New York University School of Law.

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  1. It is indeed an honor to be selected for membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The article mentions that JBHE identified eight people of African descent among the new class of fellows. I am distressed that JBHE provided brief background information on the six men in this group, but not the two women. While the two women’s work is not in higher education per se, clearly achievement at this level deserves more than a mere name mention.

    • We are a journal on higher education and thus our editorial is focused on those who are involved in the area we cover.

  2. I agree Dr. Logan,

    The two women profiles should have been included. More fundamental however is why in the world there were no black women in academia named?

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