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Niara Sudarkasa

Accomplished scholar, educator, Africanist, and anthropologist, Niara Sudarkasa, was born Gloria Albertha Marshall on August 14, 1938, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Sudarkasa was a gifted student who excelled at Dillard Elementary and Dillard High School; skipping several grades, she was a junior at the age of fourteen, and accepted early admission to Fisk University on a Ford Foundation Scholarship when she was just fifteen years old. In 1955, Sudarkasa transferred to Oberlin to complete her studies. Sudarkasa earned her A.B. degree in anthropology and English from Oberlin in 1957. In 1959, Sudarkasa received her M.A. degree in anthropology from Columbia University. In 1961, Sudarkasa traveled to London and Nigeria to complete doctoral research on Yoruba language and culture. While completing her PhD, Sudarkasa taught at Columbia, becoming the first African America woman to teach at the university; she earned her PhD from Columbia in 1964.

Sudarkasa achieved another first when she became the first African American woman to be appointed assistant professor of anthropology at New York University in 1964. Sudarkasa was also the first African American to be appointed to the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan in 1969. While at Michigan, Sudarkasa became involved in civil rights and student issues; she quickly climbed the academic ladder at Michigan, ending her seventeen year tenure as associate vice president for academic affairs. Sudarkasa left Michigan in 1986 when she became the first female to serve as president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

Sudarkasa passed away on May 31, 2019.

Sudarkasa’s accomplishments at Lincoln are highlighted in the report, Lincoln University – The Drive Toward Distinction. Under Sudarkasa's presidency the university increased enrollment, strengthened its undergraduate and international programs, and put into place an ambitious minority recruitment effort; she left her post at Lincoln in 1998.

Sudarkasa serves as Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale. Sudarkasa has authored numerous publications, including The Strength of Our Mothers: African And African American Women in Families; Where Women Work: Yoruba Traders in the Marketplace and in the Home; and Exploring the African American Experience. Sudarkasa has been awarded thirteen honorary degrees over the course of her career, including one from Ft. Hare in South Africa, and is the recipient of nearly 100 civic and professional awards. In 2001 Sudarkasa became the first African American to be installed as a chief in the historic Ife Kingdom of the Yoruba of Nigeria.

Sudarkasa passed away on May 31, 2019.

Accession Number

A2005.014

Sex

Female

Interview Date

1/13/2005

Last Name

Sudarkasa

Maker Category
Schools

Dillard High School

Fisk University

Oberlin College

Columbia University

First Name

Niara

Birth City, State, Country

Fort Lauderdale

HM ID

SUD01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Florida

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches

Favorite Quote

To Everything, There Is A Season.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

8/14/1938

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Fort Lauderdale

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Grapes

Death Date

5/31/2019

Short Description

Academic administrator and anthropology professor Niara Sudarkasa (1938 - ) was the first African American woman to be appointed assistant professor of anthropology at New York University, the first African American to be appointed to the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, the first female to serve as president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and the first African American to be installed as a chief in the historic Ife Kingdom of the Yoruba of Nigeria. She is Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Employment

The University of Michigan

New York University

Lincoln University

Florida Atlantic University

African American Research Library and Cultural Center

Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society

Favorite Color

Earth Tones

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Niara Sudarkasa's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Niara Sudarkasa lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Niara Sudarkasa talks about her mother's profession

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her father and his profession

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her maternal grandparents' family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her siblings and daily life in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Niara Sudarkasa describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her love of oceans

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Niara Sudarkasa recalls her childhood in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Niara Sudarkasa recalls moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her time at Dillard Elementary and High School

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Niara Sudarkasa recalls her grandmother's admiration for Mary McLeod Bethune

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Niara Sudarkasa recalls her childhood dreams and aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Niara Sudarkasa recalls her high school experience and college plans

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Niara Sudarkasa recalls her decision to attend Fisk University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her experience at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Niara Sudarkasa talks about her decision to transfer to Oberlin College

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Niara Sudarkasa recalls her interest in anthropology at Oberlin College

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Niara Sudarkasa relates her regrets at leaving Fisk University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her experience at Columbia University in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Niara Sudarkasa remembers travelling to London and Nigeria for her doctoral studies

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Niara Sudarkasa recalls how Nigeria changed from the 1960s to the 1980s

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her impressions of African women in Nigeria

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her early teaching positions

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her book 'Where Women Work'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Niara Sudarkasa remembers the death of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her involvement with the Black Action Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Niara Sudarkasa describes the courses she taught at the University of Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her administrative role at the University of Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Niara Sudarkasa reflects upon the outcome of Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Niara Sudarkasa talks about affirmative action versus legacy admissions

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Niara Sudarkasa shares her concerns for historically black colleges

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Niara Sudarkasa describes the climate at Pennsylvania's Lincoln University in 1987

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Niara Sudarkasa recalls her interest in serving as president of Lincoln University

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Niara Sudarkasa describes her accomplishments at Lincoln University

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Niara Sudarkasa shares her concerns about standardized tests and the state of education

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Niara Sudarkasa reflects upon the factors that impact student success

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Niara Sudarkasa describes social issues that impact education

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Niara Sudarkasa explains her decision to leave Lincoln University, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Niara Sudarkasa explains her decision to leave Lincoln University, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Niara Sudarkasa talks about the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Niara Sudarkasa reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Niara Sudarkasa talks about her son, Michael Sudarkasa, and her grandchildren

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Niara Sudarkasa describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Niara Sudarkasa narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Niara Sudarkasa narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Niara Sudarkasa narrates her photographs, pt. 3

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

10$3

DATitle
Niara Sudarkasa describes her book 'Where Women Work'
Niara Sudarkasa describes her accomplishments at Lincoln University
Transcript
Let's talk a little bit about your book, `Where Women Work[: A Study of Yoruba Women in the Marketplace and in the Home,' Niara Sudarkasa].$$Okay.$$Published in 1973.$$Um-hm.$$Can you tell us a little bit about the book?$$Well, you know, ironically, this was a revision of my thesis and it was supposed to have been published in '68 [1968], the year after I went to Michigan [University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan]. It was accepted by Mouton [Mouton de Gruyter; Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin, Germany] for publication in '67 [1967], no '66 [1966]. It was supposed to be published in '67 [1967], and I just, I don't know, I think I squandered an opportunity but I said, well who knows why things happen, but it would have been published as Gloria Marshall [HistoryMaker Niara Sudarkasa] then, and so maybe it wasn't meant to be. But that book is a very descriptive picture of the life of the women in the town where I lived [in Nigeria]. It talks about women and their families, their roles as wives, as mothers, sisters, daughters. It talks about women in the marketplace and, in fact, the subtitle is 'Where Women Work: Yoruba Women in the Marketplace and in the Home,' and I tried, and it has held up well, because I don't think there has been a ethnographic description of women and their total way of life since that time.$$Did those women remind you of your mother [Rowena Evans Marshall] and your [maternal] grandmother [Tryphenia McNeal Evans] in some aspects?$$In some respects, yeah. Some respects, especially their self-reliance and, I always that the idea of being strong women was a very positive thing. I didn't know until later that people consider that to be a negative attribute, but my, my grandmother, you know, was physically larger than my mother. She, she and I were the same height. My grandmother, maybe she was even about an inch taller than me, but my mother was an inch shorter than I am, so that means that her mother is two inches taller than she is, so my grandmother was always a very formidable presence wherever she went. She was just imposing and I met a lady in Nigeria who reminded me so much of her in her physical commanding of things, you know. She just took charge. And this lady adopted me just as I adopted her, so she really reminded me a lot of my grandmother.$What are you most proud of in terms of your accomplishments at Lincoln [Lincoln University, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania]?$$Well, I think it was that, I don't know how to say this modestly, but I think that, that the institution was reclaimed and sort of revitalized, resurrected so that Lincoln's past accomplishments were thrust into the, you know, consciousness of the academic world once again, and we did quite a bit in terms of the emphasis on excellence, the numbers, both the numbers of students went up dramatically, and the quality of the student body improved quite a bit (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) The number, enrollment was?$$Oh yeah. Enrollment, I think, when I went to Lincoln was about twelve hundred or so, no, not even, about that let's say, and it was well over, well over two thousand on a sustained basis all the time when I left. And we didn't have any, we were at capacity because we didn't have any more room for on-campus students. The other thing is that the SAT scores, if that's a measure, you know, of the quality of the students had improved very dramatically. The average SAT when I first went there was like six hundred and something total.$$Combined?$$Combined. And the average, we, we then average in the high nine hundreds, but now, in general though, you know, black students don't do all that well on the SAT, but whether you looked at GPAs or SATs, they had definitely gone up. There's a report which I hope will stay with my files, there's a report on, that sort of gave a summary of some of the highlights of Lincoln under the Sudarkasa [HistoryMaker Niara Sudarkasa] presidency, and I think student enrollment, improvement in the student quality, enhancement of the faculty and the technological conversion of the campus, those were a number of things that we accomplished. We built, there were two buildings. These were all, they were done with state monies, but the thing about it is that this big living learning center that we built had been on the drawing board for ten years and they were unable to get the governor to move and build it and I just made that a priority. I said we're going to get this building and we did.