A History of Africana Studies at Rutgers University - New Brunswick
by Dr. Leonard L. Bethel
After the death of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, reactions on the campus of Rutgers University, New Brunswick , New Jersey were ignited by Black students, and a few concerned administrators. Dr. Milton Schwebel, Dean of the Graduate School of Education, spearheaded the establishment of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Professorship, in which the highly respected Black educator and clergyman, Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor became its first Chair. Dr. Proctor initiated, in the Graduate School of Education, the first program to bring Black educators from predominantly Black colleges in the South to earn doctorates. He was an advisor to Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and was the first Peace Corp Director to Nigeria, West Africa . The youngest college president in the country at age 29 years, Proctor affected the lives of many African Americans. As a seminary student at Crozier in Chester, Pennsylvania, he was assigned as Advisor to Martin Luther King, when the latter was a first year student. Proctor also pastored the largest Black Baptist church in America (Abyssinian Baptist, Harlem, N.Y.) On top of his many accomplishments, he was awarded 60 honorary degrees and was labeled as one of the top two preachers in America. Upon retirement, Dr. Proctor was offered to teach in any department in the University at Rutgers by President Edward Bloustein. He chose Africana Studies so that he could advise African American students and to help Dr. Leonard Bethel, who was Department Chair at the time. After his death, two schools were named after him, and at the Doctor of Ministry program at the United Theological Seminary in Ohio, the African American students who earn degrees are called Proctorites.
Read more: Departmental History