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The Last Negroes at Harvard Summary and Reviews

The Last Negroes at Harvard

The Class of 1963 and the 18 Young Men Who Changed Harvard Forever

by Kent Garrett, Jeanne Ellsworth

The Last Negroes at Harvard by Kent Garrett, Jeanne Ellsworth X
The Last Negroes at Harvard by Kent Garrett, Jeanne Ellsworth
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Book Summary

The untold story of the Harvard class of '63, whose Black students fought to create their own identities on the cusp between integration and affirmative action.

In the fall of 1959, Harvard recruited an unprecedented eighteen "Negro" boys as an early form of affirmative action. Four years later they would graduate as African Americans. Some fifty years later, one of these trailblazing Harvard grads, Kent Garrett, would begin to reconnect with his classmates and explore their vastly different backgrounds, lives, and what their time at Harvard meant.

Garrett and his partner Jeanne Ellsworth recount how these eighteen youths broke new ground, with ramifications that extended far past the iconic Yard. By the time they were seniors, they would have demonstrated against national injustice and grappled with the racism of academia, had dinner with Malcolm X and fought alongside their African national classmates for the right to form a Black students' organization.

Part memoir, part group portrait, and part narrative history of the intersection between the civil rights movement and higher education, this is the remarkable story of brilliant, singular boys whose identities were changed at and by Harvard, and who, in turn, changed Harvard.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Garrett writes with an easy, charming style ("In the spring of 1962, I was still trying to climb the steep and slippery slope of organic chemistry"), but the sense of injustice is palpable. A fine contribution to the literature of civil rights and the African American experience." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Essential reading for those interested in civil rights, racial identity, and higher education." - Library Journal (starred review)

"[Garrett] and coauthor Ellsworth eloquently describe the pressures these students were under, drawing an insightful portrait of the limits of racial progress in America. Expertly blending memoir and cultural history, this outstanding retrospective deserves to be widely read." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"This engaging story of eighteen remarkable black men admitted to Harvard's class of 1963 is an eye-opener. Brilliantly placed in historical context, including the unfolding of the Civil Rights Movement, The Last Negroes at Harvard conveys an important message. Namely, the willingness of these young men to embrace, not retreat from, the challenges of racial interaction in an elite setting is in no small measure a reflection of individual pride, self-confidence, and efficacy." - William Julius Wilson, author of When Work Disappears and More than Just Race

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More Information

Kent Garrett was born in the Fort Greene Projects in Brooklyn, New York. He excelled in the New York City Public Schools and went on to Harvard College in 1959. He was one of the producers of the ground-breaking public TV program Black Journal and went on to a long career with CBS and NBC News. In 1997, he left the rat race and became an organic dairy farmer in upstate New York.

Jeanne Ellsworth grew up in northwest New Jersey and taught elementary school there for ten years. After returning to school to get a doctorate, she was a teacher educator at the State University of New York system for over twenty years. Since 2007, she has lived in the Catskill Mountains with her partner, Kent Garrett.

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