The Last Negroes at Harvard (Hardcover)
The Class of 1963 and the 18 Young Men Who Changed Harvard Forever
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9781328879974, 320pp.
Publication Date: February 11, 2020
In the fall of 1959, Harvard recruited an unprecedented eighteen “Negro” boys as an early form of affirmative action. Four years later they would graduate as African Americans. Some fifty years later, one of these trailblazing Harvard grads, Kent Garrett, would begin to reconnect with his classmates and explore their vastly different backgrounds, lives, and what their time at Harvard meant.
Garrett and his partner Jeanne Ellsworth recount how these eighteen youths broke new ground, with ramifications that extended far past the iconic Yard. By the time they were seniors, they would have demonstrated against national injustice and grappled with the racism of academia, had dinner with Malcolm X and fought alongside their African national classmates for the right to form a Black students’ organization.
Part memoir, part group portrait, and part narrative history of the intersection between the civil rights movement and higher education, this is the remarkable story of brilliant, singular boys whose identities were changed at and by Harvard, and who, in turn, changed Harvard.
About the Author
Praise For The Last Negroes at Harvard: The Class of 1963 and the 18 Young Men Who Changed Harvard Forever…
“[This] beautifully written narrative…offers a gripping snapshot of how these students ‘stood out and blended in’ as the largest incoming Harvard class of African Americans to date and for a number of years to come. Garrett is a keen observer of his fellow students, and he explores how this experience sharpened his critical thinking skills and raised his consciousness of Negroes as Afro-Americans (later African Americans), Afro-Caribbeans, and Africans. Essential reading for those interested in civil rights, racial identity, and higher education.”—Library Journal, starred review
“These extraordinary men chart life journeys that were full of challenges…but also full of accomplishments. Garrett writes with an easy, charming style, but the sense of injustice is palpable. A fine contribution to the literature of civil rights and the African American experience.”—Kirkus, starred review
"[Garrett] and coauthor Ellsworth eloquently describe the pressures these students were under, drawing an insightful portrait of the limits of racial progress in America. Expertly blending memoir and cultural history, this outstanding retrospective deserves to be widely read."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Explores, with candor, verve, and a documentary journalist’s precision, a historic crossroads between the elite echelons of higher education and the civil rights movement."—Boston Globe