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Re-Centering the History in Black History

Despite an impressive list of prestigious awards and national accomplishments, Rutgers University’s Dr. Clement Alexander Price is a remarkably down-to-earth person.

A Black historian and community activist, Price is the Rutgers Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of History at the Newark, N.J., campus. Price is most known for founding the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience 12 years ago “to plow the choppy, interesting waters of diversity,” he says.

Price also cofounded the Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series in 1981, one of the nation’s oldest Black History Month conferences that has since attracted some of the world’s most notable scholars and historians to the region. (Local legend Marion Thompson Wright was one of the first professionally trained Black women historians in the country.)

“We launched the lecture series to re-center the history in Black History
Month,” he says. “It was our concern that it had become increasingly dedicated to entertainment and less to [its founding principles]—historical literacy.”

To ensure the continuation of the lecture series, “which over the last 10 years has drawn an increasingly diverse audience,” Price’s recent gift of $100,000 to the university will establish an endowment. He played a pivotal role in helping to recognize the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Newark summer riots and hosted the award-winning “The Once and Future Newark” documentary.

He sits on the New Jersey state steering committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, responsible for reporting civil-rights issues in the Garden State. And last year, Price served on President Obama’s transition team, chairing the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Click here to see this article as it originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of DiversityInc magazine. 

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