Illustration for article titled Rutgers University Gets Its First Black President
Photo: Sam Hodgson (New York Times)

It’s been a good week for black history. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, last week it was announced that World War II hero Doris Miller would be honored by the U.S. Navy with an aircraft carrier named for him and on Sunday, school officials said that Dr. Jonathan Holloway, the provost of Northwestern University, is expected to take over leadership of Rutgers University next week, becoming its first black president, according to New York Times.

The formal announcement is expected to be made on Tuesday following approval by the university’s board of governors and board of trustees. Dory Devlin, a Rutgers spokeswoman, couldn’t say much about it because the new presidency is not yer official but said that a joint meeting would take place on Tuesday to elect “an executive-level position.”

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So how about a little back ground on the new Head Brotha in Charge:

Before being named provost at Northwestern University in 2017, Dr. Holloway, who is a scholar of African-American history, played football in college at Stanford University. He later received a bachelor’s degree with honors in American studies from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in history from Yale University. In 2014, before going to Northwestern, he became the first black dean of Yale College.

While he was at Yale, the school faced a storm of student protests, drawing nationwide attention, over an email in 2015 sent by faculty member Erika Christakis who suggested that students should be allowed to wear whatever Halloween costumes they wanted, regardless of whether they offended someone. This email was sent in response to an email sent by the university’s Intercultural Affairs Committee to the student body asking students to avoid wearing “culturally unaware and insensitive” costumes. (We all know how hard it is for white folks to avoid blackface and wearing cultures as costumes.) Christakis’ responding email sparked, not only protests, but a debate about the university’s history and the way it has dealt with race.

Holloway embraced some student demands, like calling for a more diverse faculty. But he was also criticized by some students who said he should have worked harder to address concerns about race on campus.

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Dr. Holloway is also the author of several books, including “Confronting the Veil: Abram Harris Jr., E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche, 1919-1941,” and “Jim Crow Wisdom: Memory and Identity in Black America Since 1940.”

According to the most recent data published by the American Council on Education, non-white people make up less than a fifth of all college presidents with only 8 percent of the 17 percent of minority presidents being black.

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So, cheers, Dr. Holloway, you’re making history.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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