Harvard University

From the 2023 Award for Scholarly Distinction citation in the 2024 Annual Meeting Awards Ceremony booklet

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, a pioneering and distinguished scholar of African American women’s history, is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, where she has served as chair of the Department of African and African American Studies and was the first African American to chair the Department of History.

Higginbotham is the author of the groundbreaking and prizewinning book Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church1880–1920, which won the 1993 Joan Kelly Memorial Prize of the AHA. The publication of Righteous Discontent marked a critical turning point in the field of African American women’s history and its theorization and has had a defining influence on generations of scholars. Here Higginbotham coined the term “politics of respectability” to describe the strategy for racial uplift and political advancement adopted by the Women’s Convention of the Black Baptist Church. She is also co-editor with Henry Louis Gates Jr. of the 12-volume African American National Biography, which presents African American history through the lives of more than 5,000 biographical entries, and co-author with the late John Hope Franklin of the preeminent history of African Americans, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans.

She has received many honors, notably the 2014 National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama, election as national president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History from 2016–21, and election to the American Philosophical Society in 2009 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2018. For her remarkable contributions to the field of history, she also received the Inaugural Living Legacy Award from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (2012); the Legend Award from the National Urban League (2008); the Carter G. Woodson Scholars Medallion from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (2008); and the J. Franklin Jameson Fellowship (1985), awarded by the AHA and the Library of Congress. She was the inaugural John Hope Franklin Professor of American Legal History at Duke University (2010–11) and in 2022 was named a Living Legend by the Association of Black Women Historians.