Harvard launches HBCU scholars program named after its first Black Ph.D. graduate

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Harvard University will soon welcome 20 students from more than 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to spend the summer as Fellows in the Du Bois Scholars Program.  The program is part of the Harvard College Summer Undergraduate Research Village (HSURV), which provides students with opportunities to conduct rigorous research, participate in professional development workshops, and showcase their work. 

This first cohort of Du Bois Scholars includes rising college juniors and seniors who will explore topics ranging from environmental health to immunology and infectious diseases. They will participate in a nine-week residential program, each working closely with a faculty mentor. Throughout the summer, the Du Bois Scholars will also have opportunities to engage with other students in the HSURV.  At the end of the program, the Du Bois Scholars will present their research achievements. 

Named after W.E.B. Du Bois — the first Black Ph.D. student at Harvard who also studied and taught at HBCUs — the program embodies his commitment to Black scholarship. The Du Bois Scholars Program is funded jointly by Harvard College and the Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery (H&LS) Initiative, which seeks to address systemic inequities by developing and advancing visible, lasting, and effective actions through partnerships and by leveraging Harvard’s educational and research resources. Established in January 2023 to implement the recommendations in the Report of the Presidential Committee on Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery, H&LS is launching the Du Bois Scholars program as a part of its commitment to developing enduring partnerships with HBCUs.  

“The Du Bois Scholars Program is an exciting opportunity for Harvard to strengthen its partnerships with HBCUs by fostering rigorous research opportunities,” said Sara Bleich, vice provost for special projects at Harvard University. “We look forward to welcoming our first cohort this summer and learning from their innovative research.” 

HBCUs were established to educate Black students during a time when segregation was legal and have been crucial in producing Black professionals, leaders, and changemakers who have made significant contributions to many aspects of American society, despite insufficient funding. “Since 1837, HBCUs have been pillars of empowerment and progress, fostering excellence and a legacy which fuels innovation and transforms society,” said Shahara C. Jackson, program director of HBCU Strategic Initiatives at H&LS. “I am proud to work alongside insightful leaders who are shaping a brighter future for the Du Bois Scholars.”  

For more information, contact Senior Associate Director of Communications, H&LS, Julita Bailey-Vasco at