After a nationwide race with other historically black schools, Tuskegee University has been chosen to receive one of the country’s largest collections of African studies.
Tuskegee will now be the permanent home of nearly 1,400 publications that make up the Pritchett Collection, gathered by the late James Anthony Pritchett, a preeminent scholar in the field. The collection makes Tuskegee a research destination as home of one of the country’s largest HBCU-based African studies collections.
It’s quite an honor, says Thierno Thiam, an associate professor and chair of Tuskegee’s Department of History and Political Science, who worked with the Pritchett family as they considered where to donate.
“Dr. Prichett’s research and resources have served as a source of inspiration for many of the African studies scholars of my generation,” said Thiam, himself a native of Senegal, West Africa. “His commitment to preserving the African perspective has been vital to scholars in our field.”
The materials shed light on the African diaspora — including agriculture, literature, migration, politics and culture. Thiam says housing this diverse collection of classic and rare publications is an achievement for up-and-coming academic programs and research at Tuskegee.
“Because of the richness and diversity found in the Pritchett Collection, Tuskegee University stands to be the base of a growing pipeline of African American scholars bound for further studies at graduate schools throughout the nation,” Thiam said. “This collection will influence students studying history and political science, English, sociology and psychology, and agriculture — just to name a few.”
The collection will be housed at Tuskegee’s Ford Motor Company Library — where researchers can review individual manuscripts in person or borrow them through interlibrary loan. Among the collection’s signature pieces are the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) General History of Africa collection and the African Studies Review collection.
The collection will be unveiled on Friday, Feb. 14 to participants attending the university’s fourth-annual History Research Symposium. The event will feature James C. McCann, a professor and chair of Boston University’s Department of History, and Awa Sarr, assistant director of Michigan State University’s African Studies Center — both of whom assisted the Pritchett family with choosing at which HBCU the collection would reside.
“We’re grateful to Drs. McCann and Sarr for finding Tuskegee University worthy of this collection, and especially thankful to Dr. Pritchett’s daughter, Regina, who coordinated the search and fundraising effort to catalog and ship the manuscripts to the university,” Thiam said.
At the time of his passing on Nov. 29, 2019, Dr. James A. Pritchett served as a renowned anthropology professor at Michigan State University, where he was a member of the core faculty for the African American and African Studies Program, and the Center for Advanced Study of International Development. His career also included serving as director of the African Studies Centers located at Boston University and Michigan State University. He held three degrees in anthropology — a bachelor’s from Ohio State University, and master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University.
The collection he amassed over a 40-year period reflected his strong academic and research focus on African diaspora and his studies of African-descended people in the Caribbean, Brazil and elsewhere in Central and South America.