Alumna helped lay groundwork for KU’s African and African-American Studies department

Posted on Oct 7, 2015 in Alumni News and News

Alferdteen Harrison was among 12 alumni honored honored with the Mike and Joyce Shinn African-American Leaders & Innovators award at the Black Alumni Network‘s reunion, held on campus Sept. 25-27. The award recognizes leaders from the KU community for their impact on society.

Harrison was the first African-American to earn a doctorate from KU’s department of history, and she helped lay the groundwork for the University’s African and African-American Studies department. In 1972, she joined the faculty at Jackson State University in her home state of Mississippi and created the university’s academic program in public history, the first established among historically black colleges and universities. In 1977, she spearheaded the development of the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center, the first state museum to highlight African-Americans in Mississippi.

When famed poet and novelist Margaret Walker Alexander (1915-1998) retired as founder and director of Jackson State’s Institute for the Study of Life and Culture, Harrison, PhD’71, transformed the institute into the Margaret Walker Alexander Research Center, a prominent museum and archives. Harrison received the 2012 Thad Cochran Humanities Award for her contributions to Mississippi history and culture.

Learn about other honorees of the African-American Leaders & Innovators Project here. These talented and sometimes controversial African-Americans helped shape the University as well as the cities, states and nations their work touched.

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