Herskovits, Melville J.

Herskovits, Melville J. (Jean)

(1895–1963) anthropologist; born in Bellefontaine, Ohio. He studied with Franz Boas at Columbia University and went on to become a leading cultural relativist and the dean of American Africanists. He spent his academic career at Northwestern University, where he founded the first American university program in African studies (1951). He pioneered the cultural anthropological study of American blacks by identifying them as a distinct cultural group in such early works as The American Negro (1928). His fieldwork in the West Indies and Africa contributed to his contention that, despite the American blacks' period of enslavement, their culture remained linked to its African origins; this thesis, propounded in The Myth of the Negro Past (1941) and other works, was highly controversial. Other important books include Man and his Works (1948) and The Human Factor in Changing Africa (1962). He married Frances Shapiro (1924), who frequently collaborated on his fieldwork and publications.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
Herskovits, Melville J. "The Negro's Americanism." Locke, New 353-60.
Herskovits, Melville J. The Myth of the Negro Past.
Herskovits, Melville J. Dahomey, An Ancient West African Kingdom.