Friday, January 1, 2010


(Dana Williams and Dolan Hubbard at MLA, Dec. 29)

During the MLA conference in Philly, I was pleased to catch up with Dolan Hubbard from Morgan State, Dana Williams from Howard University, and Donna Akiba Harper from Spelman College. All three produce scholarship on African American literature and culture.

And they are among a small number of scholars from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) who have a visible and consistent presence at these larger "white" conferences like MLA. Of course, it's worth noting that they also have a similar presence at "black" conferences, like the College Language Association annual gatherings.

Whatever the case, the relative small amount of representation from HBCUs at a large, influential conference like MLA should give us reason to worry. Folks often mention the "problem of the pipeline" as a reason that so few African Americans are earning PhDs in the humanities. Well, without stronger, active connections to HBCUs and links to scholars like Hubbard, Williams, and Harper, we'd be hard pressed to reach large numbers of potential future literary scholars.

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