Over the last one-hundred, ASALH has been led by a distinguished list of presidents who have left a legacy for not only ASALH but also the society at large. Our Founder, Carter G. Woodson, was a strong personality who succeeded because he had the ability to convince other strong, capable people to trod the path with him. The ASALH tradition is to walk with giants.

The first president, George Cleveland Hall , was a physician and civic leader in Chicago. For decades his was a moving force at Provident Hospital, which served the city’s burgeoning black population in the age of black migrations. A Vice-President of the National Urban League, and an early member of the NAACP, Hall was a tireless leader for black rights. Robert E. Park, who followed him, took the presidency after working as the secretary and ghost writer for Booker T. Washington and joining the faculty at the University of Chicago and establishing what became known as the Chicago School of Sociology. The only white president of the Association, Park trained black sociologists such as Charles S. Johnson and E. Franklin Frazier, two legends of black sociology. John Hope was the first African American president of what became Morehouse College. Following him came the giant, Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of Bethune Cookman College, and a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Serving as president for fifteen years, Ms. Bethune provided continuity, laboring alongside of Woodson through the Great Depression and into the new era ushered in by World War II.

Of ASALH’s twenty-seven presidents, nine have been administrators in higher education. Like Ms. Bethune and John Hope, Charles Wesley, William Harris, and Samuel DuBois Cook each served as university presidents.* John R. Hawkins, our third president, served as head of Kittrell College in North Carolina in 1886. 20th president, Bettye J. Gardner, and 24th president, Sheila Y. Flemming-Hunter, have served as deans at Coppin State University and Bethune-Cookman College, respectively. Past President Robert Harris, Jr. served as Assistant Provost at Cornell University.

Two of our presidents have served in important positions in the federal government. Following the path established by Ms. Bethune, Andrew Brimmer, whose doctorate is in economics, served in the administrations of both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. During his presidency at ASALH, he also served as a governor of the Federal Reserve of the United States, stewarding the economy of the United States.

Befitting an organization devoted to historical inquiry and educating youth, Charles Harris Wesley, Lorenzo Greene, Edgar Toppin, Earl Thorpe, William Harris, Daryl Scott and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham have been renowned historians. President Greene learned his craft from Woodson. Others, such as Samuel Banks, J. Rupert Picott, and Janette Hoston Harris, dedicated a significant part of their labor to improving education at the primary and secondary levels. For much of his career, Charles Walker Thomas trained teachers in Washington, DC.

With the advent of Black Studies, Robert Harris, Jr., Gloria Dickinson, and Earl Thorpe have been crucial in establishing the field on historically white college campuses.

Our presidents leadership is not limited to ASALH.  John Fleming is the founding director of three national museums, and has led numerous professional organizations including the Association of African American Museums.  The National Council of Black Studies is one of the many organizations led by Jim Stewart.

Please share with us any information and images you have about ASALH’s leadership. Write the Executive Director, Sylvia Cyrus at [email protected].

1916-1917 George Cleveland Hall
1917-1920 Robert E. Park
1921-1930 John R. Hawkins
1931-1936 John Hope
1936-1951 Mary McLeod Bethune
1952-1964 Charles Harris Wesley
1965-1966 Lorenzo J. Greene
1966-1967 J. Reuben Sheeler
1968-1970 J. Rupert Picott
1971-1973 Andrew Brimmer
1974-1976 Edgar Toppin
1977-1980 Charles Walker Thomas
1981-1982 Earl E. Thorpe
1983-1984 Samuel L. Banks
1984-1985 Jeanette Cascone (acting)
1986-1988 William Harris
1989-1990 Andrew Brimmer
1991-1993 Robert Harris, Jr.
1993-1995 Janette Hoston Harris
1995-1997 Bettye J. Gardner
1997-1999 Edward Beasley
1999-2001 Samuel DuBois Cook,Sr.
2001-2004 Gloria Harper Dickinson
2004-2006 Sheila Y. Flemming
2007-2009 John Fleming
2010-2012 James Stewart
2013-2015 Daryl Michael Scott
2016-2021 Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham
2022-Current W. Marvin Dulaney

Mary McLeod Bethune served as president of Bethune-Cookman College.

Samuel DuBois Cook, Sr served as president of Dillard University.

William Harris has served as president of Paine College, Texas Southern University, and Alabama State University.

John R. Hawkins served as president of Kittrell College in 1886.

John Hope served as president of Morehouse College.

Charles Wesley served as president of Central State University and Wilberforce University.