Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. She has been a tenured faculty member at Harvard since 1993, and she chaired the Department of African and African Americans Studies from 2006-2013.
She is the founder and coordinator of that department’s Social Engagement Initiative, an innovative pedagogy that combines rigorous academic work with on-the-ground experience. Higginbotham became the National President of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in January 2016. This organization was founded by Carter G. Woodson in 1915.
Higginbotham began her teaching career as a public school teacher in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and in Washington, DC, before moving to the university setting. She has also taught on the faculties of Dartmouth College, the University of Maryland, and the University of Pennsylvania. At the special invitation of Duke University, she taught at the Duke Law School in 2010-2011 as the inaugural John Hope Franklin Professor of American Legal History.
Higginbotham earned her Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in American History, her M.A. from Howard University, and her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has thoroughly revised and re-written the classic African American history survey From Slavery to Freedom, which was first published by John Hope Franklin in 1947. She is the co-author with the late John Hope Franklin of this book’s ninth edition, which came out in 2010. A pioneering scholar in African American women’s history, she is the author of the prizewinning book Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church 1880-1920. She is also co-editor with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., of the African American National Biography, now in its second edition (2013). This twelve-volume resource presents African American history through the lives of more than 5,000 biographical entries.
Higginbotham is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. Most notably in September 2015 she received the 2014 National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama at the White House for “illuminating the African American journey.” In March 2015 she was named one of the “Top 25 Women in Higher Education” by Diverse Magazine. She holds the Honorary Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2014) and Howard University (2011). She was the John Hope Franklin Fellow at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, for the academic year 2013-2014. In July 2013, she received the James W.C. Pennington Award from the University of Heidelberg (Germany) for her scholarly contributions to African American Religious History. She was awarded the Star Family Prize for Excellence in Advising in May 2012 for her exemplary intellectual guidance and mentorship of Harvard undergraduates. In 2012 she received the Living Legacy Award from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History; and in 2011 received the Honorary Doctorate from Howard University. In 2010, Higginbotham was inducted into the American Philosophical Society for promoting useful knowledge. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History awarded her the Carter G. Woodson Scholars Medallion in 2008, and in that same year the National Urban League awarded her the Legend Award. In 2003 she was chosen by Harvard University to be a Walter Channing Cabot Fellow in recognition of her achievements in the field of history.