Adelaide M. Cromwell

Honorary Degree Citation

Adelaide Cromwell

Adelaide McGuinn Cromwell. Sociologist. Historian. Educator. Public intellectual. Pioneering scholar of Africa, African America, international relations, and women’s studies. Inspired by your “mothering aunt” Otelia Cromwell, the first African-American graduate of Smith College, you blazed your own distinguished pathways through higher education beginning with your 1940 undergraduate article in the Journal of Heredity. You became an institution-building professor at Boston University, cofounding its African studies program, the first to establish a graduate concentration. Your pioneering scholarship, professional service, and civic engagement focused on relations between the United States and African nations. Your African studies courses became models for other institutions. Your international conferences brought leading African women and men together with their American peers. Your books, edited volumes, and articles on Africa, on Boston’s black upper class, on African feminism and African education, and on your own family’s historical connections to the making of America compose a rich scholarship that reaches across three centuries and that unveils the contributions of black Americans to a changing America and world. Your energies as a public intellectual through the Council on Foreign Relations and the Massachusetts Historical Society expand public understanding and memorialize the contributions of African Americans to the greater Boston community, the nation, and the world. Through your efforts our public spaces build a broader national spirit and enable us to live and work together more knowledgeably and more humanely in what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the world house.” We honor you today for nourishing a spirit of inquiry and discovery in African studies and in African American studies that has inspired scholars and communities throughout the world.

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Adelaide McGuinn Cromwell, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.

Conferred May 22, 2011


Adelaide M. Cromwell is a professor emerita of sociology at Boston University and founding director of its Afro-American studies program, the nation’s first graduate program in that field. She earned her B.A. at Smith College and her Ph.D. at Radcliffe College before joining the Hunter College faculty as its first African-American member. She later became Smith College’s first African-American faculty member and was on the Boston University faculty for 34 years. Cromwell cofounded the university’s African studies program. She is the author of The Other Brahmins: Boston’s Black Upper Class, 1750-1950; An African Victorian Feminist: The Life and Times of Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford, 1868-1960; Unveiled Voices, Unvarnished Memories: The Cromwell Family in Slavery and Segregation, 1692-1972; My Mothering Aunt: Otelia Cromwell and coauthor of Apropos of Africa: Afro-American Leaders and the Romance of Africa. She is a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Council on Foreign Relations and a former member of the Board of Foreign Scholarships and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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