#BlackGirlMagic: Black women to lead four Harvard schools for first time

On August 15, four of the University’s schools will be led by African-American women for the first time in Harvard’s history.

Harvard University campus. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Newsmakers)

Black women continue to be a driving force as the world evolves. From education and politics to sports and entertainment, #blackgirlmagic is breaking barriers and making history daily.

Nearly two years ago, none of Harvard University’s 14 schools had a black woman at the helm, the Harvard Crimson reports, but come August 15, that’s going to change.

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For the first time in Harvard University’s history, four of the institution’s schools will be led by Black women.

“If my presence in this role affirms someone’s sense of belonging and ownership, then I think that’s great,” says Professor Claudine Gay, who was recently appointed to become Harvard’s Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She is the first African-American and woman to take on the position. 

The Harvard Crimson noted in a tweet that “colleagues said her appointment to the deanship of Harvard’s flagship faculty last week marks a turning point at the University.”

The three other dynamic women who hold leadership positions at the university include Michelle A. Williams, an epidemiologist and professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, Bridget Terry-Long serves as dean of the university’s Graduate School of Education, and Tomiko Brown-Nagin is leading the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

“For people who are sort of beyond our gates, if this prompts them to look again and look anew at Harvard and imagine new possibilities for themselves, I think that’s great as well,” Gay said of Harvard’s push to diversifying the ranks of administrators.

John S. Wilson, a key advocate for the university’s inclusion initiatives, said the institution “is getting ready for a new future for itself and for the country and for the world.”

News of these historic appointments sparked excitement across social media from students, graduates and faculty alike. 

“It’s great to see such wonderful, talented individuals in leadership posts and to see the University diversifying its leadership ranks,” Government professor Danielle S. Allen wrote in an emailed statement.

Brown-Nagin also noted in an emailed statement that she is “thrilled whenever any organization recognizes talent in women and people of color, just the same of other groups.” 

She also noted her career in education as often being one of a handful of women of color occupying “elite spaces.”

“In all those contexts, I have managed to avoid being reduced to my ascribed race or gender. That said, I’ve been gratified by the congratulations that I’ve received from people from all walks of life, men and women, seasoned professionals and students,” she wrote.