Here is a List of 33 Black Scholars for The President of Purdue University Who Thinks They are ‘Rare Creatures’

Here is a List of 33 Black Scholars for The President of Purdue University Who Thinks They are ‘Rare Creatures’

Black Scholars
HGSE Professor Anthony Jack talks about his new book "The Privileged Poor" which is about the struggles of disadvantaged students at elite schools inside Longfellow Hall. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

The president of Purdue University thinks that black scholars are ‘rare creatures.’ Unfortunately, you read that correctly. In late November, Mitch Daniels, president of the university, announced that he would be recruiting a black academic who he referred to as “one of the rarest creatures in America—a leading, I mean a really leading, African-American scholar.”

As you could imagine, news of what Daniels said traveled fast and in the essence of Black Twitter, the hashtag #IAmNotACreature surfaced on the web sparking debate on the controversial statement from black students, professors, and those who shared the same sentiments.

After receiving backlash for his comment, Daniels told the Lafayette Journal & Courier, “I was saying that, this very week, we’re working on a superstar who happens to be African American,” Daniels said. “Extraordinarily rare talent and one of our target populations. That’s what I said. And to have that stood on its head as an indifference to diversity, or worse, it hurts. That’s all I’ll say.”

Black Scholars Aren’t Having It

In response to the news, G. Gabrielle Starr, president of Pomona College and a professor of English and neuroscience, wrote an eloquent opinion piece in the New York Times.

When I learned about Mr. Daniels’s words from another African-American scholar on my own campus, I felt indignant but also constrained. The standard etiquette for college presidents, like me, is to let the remarks of another leader pass on by.


I can’t do that. The idea that scholars of color are rare is a damaging fiction. Yet it’s pervasive in academia, causing untold damage. It allows some faculty deans to simply throw up their hands and give up on their recruitment efforts. It leads to small recruitment budgets for minority candidates.


It means some disciplines structurally ignore the presence of brilliant candidates of color, believing, contrary to their own eyes, that none exist. It means that another generation of younger scholars may think it’s impossible ever to lead. It means lost creativity, delayed discoveries and fewer transformative ideas of the kind our world desperately needs. And for those who want to maintain the status quo, mission accomplished.


It’s true that the number of black scholars is smaller than one would like. But they’re also suppressed by the fiction that black leadership is an impossible dream — a rare bird.

As an ode to black excellence, here is a list of 33 black scholars who are and have shaped the world:

33 Black Scholars You Should Know:

  1. Gabrielle Starr, English and Neuroscience
  2. Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, Jurisprudence and Critical Theory
  3. Keonte Coleman, Media Studies
  4. Toni Morrison, Literary Theory and Cultural Criticism
  5. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Literary Theory and Africana Studies
  6. Yvonne Welbon, Cinema and Cultural Criticism
  7. Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe, Economics
  8. Kobi K.K. Kambon, Psychology
  9. Tamara Jeffries, Media Studies
  10. Patricia Hill Collins, Sociology, Critical Theory, Africana Studies
  11. Evette Dionne, Cultural Criticism and Feminism
  12. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Cultural Criticism
  13. John Henrik Clarke, Pan-African and Africana Studies
  14. Carter G. Woodson, African American History
  15. Robin G. Kelley, Africana Studies
  16. William Leo Hansberry, Literary Theory
  17. Bell Hooks, Literary Theory and Cultural Criticism
  18. Mary Frances Berry, Africana Studies, History, and Jurisprudence
  19. Robyn C. Spencer, Civil Rights and Black Power
  20. Johanna Fernandez, Africana and Latino Studies
  21. Cornell West, Philosophy, Theology, and Critical Theory
  22. James H. Cone, Theology
  23. Angela Y. Davis, Philosophy and Critical Theory
  24. Annette Gordon-Reed, Jurisprudence and History
  25. Niara Sudarkasa, Anthropology
  26. Kwame Anthony Appiah, Africana Studies, Philosophy, Critical Theory
  27. Stephen L. Carter, Jurisprudence and Cultural Criticism
  28. Thomas Sowell, Economics, History, and Political Science
  29. William Julius Wilson, Sociology
  30. Beverly Daniel Tatum, Psychology
  31. John H. McWhorter, Linguistics and Cultural Criticism
  32. Claude M. Steele, Psychology
  33. Dr. Anthony Jack, Education

And, the list goes on.