Leading While Black reflects on the horizons of executive leadership at Tufts University. Sharing the largely unexamined presence of Black university leaders at Tufts over the past 50 years, this project studies eight luminaries who transformed governance, advanced equity, traversed boundaries, and enhanced the flourishing of generations of students, faculty, and staff at Tufts.
Starting in 1970, these leaders arrived at Tufts with family roots in and personal experiences of the Great Migration, the educational legacy of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), personal involvement in the civil rights and the women’s rights movements, and subsequent struggles for just social policy. Their backgrounds and life experiences enriched and informed their contributions to the core objectives of Tufts as an educational institution, and amplified their ability to mentor and inspire all members of our university, especially the underserved and underrepresented.
Universities are reflections of the larger societies of which they are a part. And, as in society, to address the many structures that divide and separate us and perpetuate social disequilibria, we benefit from multiple remedies. One approach to correcting structures of inequity is to change the processes of decision-making and to diversify the people who sit at the tables where key decisions are made. In 2020, Tufts University announced a concerted effort to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion at an institutional level and to make itself an anti-racist institution. This institutional future, envisioned by the Tufts as an Anti-Racist Institution initiative, is directly linked to the foundation established by the visionary leadership of these Black luminaries. As university leaders, they fundamentally changed the institution by diversifying the body of executive decision-makers at Tufts—a change that reverberated across the administration and schools and created generational value.
Images: Tufts Digital Collections and Archives