March 17, 1999

Damon W. Freeman, OAH
March 17, 1999

I. Introduction

This report looks at the state of ethnic minority graduate student recruitment within the historical profession, compares it to efforts in other fields in the humanities, social sciences, and medicine, and makes several recommendations for improvement. It is not a comprehensive study of graduate programs. That goal is outside the limits of this report, although the author highly recommends that such an analysis is necessary. The report summarizes recruitment programs implemented by the various disciplines, compiles available data on minorities in those professions and makes preliminary recommendations for improving the numbers of ethnic minority students seeking history careers.

A brief survey of the data indicates the importance of rethinking how the profession has responded to calls for increasing racial diversity among its members. From 1977 to 1995, the National Research Council conducted studies from which the following statistics are drawn by sending a questionnaire to a sample group of doctoral recipients in the humanities every other year. This sample group covers a forty-four year period. For example, the 1977 data were drawn from scholars who earned the PhD between 1933 and 1977; the 1979 data were drawn from scholars who earned the PhD between 1935 and 1979, and so on. In 1981, the NRC revealed that 4.7% of the 20,300 PhD’s in history in the United States were ethnic minorities. By 1991, the percentage of ethnic minorities had climbed to 5.6% in American History and 6.1% in other historical fields. However, by 1995, the percentage of minorities had declined to 4.8% out of a total of 23,800 PhD’s in the nation for the entire profession (1). In addition to the biennial surveys, this study also consulted the annual NRC report on doctorate recipients in the United States. This report, known as the Summary Report, gathers data on the annual production of doctorate recipients in all fields. Unfortunately, the NRC studies do not account for minority historians who earned the BA or the MA (not the PhD) and are working as historians, archivists, school teachers who conduct historical research, consultants, etc, nor do they account for African-American Studies and Ethnic Studies scholars who are teaching minority history but received their degrees in another field, such as Sociology. Nevertheless, the NRC information is the only available source we currently have on the numbers and percentages of minority historians.

In 1975, minorities made up only 4.2% of PhD recipients in history. By 1985, that figure had climbed to 7.36% and by 1995 the figure had risen to 11.02% (2). Despite the recent small increase in the number of minority PhD recipients, the overall percentage of minorities with PhD’s in history has changed little. In 1981, for example, 92.8% of the 20,300 history PhD’s in the United States were white. Only 4.7% were from minority groups (African-American, Latino, Asian, and American Indian); 2.5% did not report their ethnicity. In 1995, 95.2% of the 23,800 history PhD’s in the United States were white; 4.8% were from minority groups (3). Nor is it likely that these numbers will increase in the near future. Among matriculating graduate students in 1995, minorities made up only 10.9% while whites made up 89.1%, despite the fact that the overall number of graduate students had increased from 10,200 in 1986 to 17,931 by 1995 (4).

There are some factors which complicate the data and, upon closer inspection, should alarm historians dedicated to diversifying their profession. First, the NRC data shows that there has been only a 0.1% increase in the percentage of minority PhD’s overall in the discipline of history between 1981 and 1995. In other words, it is probably accurate to say that for every one hundred historians with PhD’s in the nation, five are ethnic minorities. This observation is problematized further by the fact that 72.7% of all history PhD’s in the United States received their doctorate between 1970 and 1994 (5). Despite affirmative action efforts and increasing awareness that the historical profession needed to enlarge the existing minority faculty pool, the majority of historians and PhD recipients in the United States continued to be white, although since 1981 women have increased their numbers and percentages substantially (6).

II. The Historical Profession

Currently within the discipline of history there are few programs in existence sponsored by the national associations to recruit minority students into the profession. Of the two largest organizations, the American Historical Association (AHA) and the Organization of American Historians (OAH), only the OAH has a specific program in place. Two other organizations devoted to minority history, the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH) and the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH) have limited programs. These associations are outlined below.

Organization of American Historians

The Organization of American Historians contains over nine thousand members. The annual OAH Minority Fellowship Program offers five years of support, including a $10,000 per year stipend, to an entering minority history graduate student at Indiana University. The fellowship includes two years as an intern at the OAH headquarters in Bloomington, Indiana and a one-year teaching assistantship. Since the fellowship’s inception in the Fall of 1995, three awards have been made. While the program has proven to be extremely valuable for both its recipients and the OAH, it has nonetheless disappointed those supporters who wished to enlarge the number of minority students seeking the doctorate in history at Indiana University. In particular, the last three years has attracted a limited number of applicants. Although the reasons for this unexpected shortfall vary, they indicate the need to reevaluate current recruitment efforts. In addition, the fellowship by itself can hardly be expected to significantly alter the numbers of minority historians. Complicating the fellowship program are disagreements between the OAH Committee on Minorities in the Historical Profession and the Indiana University History Department which jointly select the award winner. The disagreements concern the criteria to be used in selecting the winner as well as the overall goals of the fellowship. Any resolution of these issues must reconcile the committee’s goals, the department’s goals, and the goals of the OAH and the larger historical profession. In addition to the fellowship, the OAH has established a committee devoted to addressing minority issues (the committee spoken of above) and the Huggins-Quarles Dissertation Award for minority ABD students. The Committee on Minorities frequently sponsors sessions or roundtables at the annual meetings geared to the interests of minority historians.

American Historical Association

The American Historical Association claims more than 15,000 members. The AHA currently has no program in place to address the lack of minorities in the historical profession. It has established a Committee on Minority Historians, compiled a 1992 Report on the Hiring of Women and Minority Historians, sponsored the annual Wesley-Logan Prize in Africana History, and published a 1997 Statement on Affirmative Action. While these efforts signal the strong support AHA has for increasing the under representation of minorities in the profession, the association has not taken formal measures to address the problem.

Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History

The ASALH, the oldest and largest of historical societies dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of African-American History, currently has no program to increase the numbers of African-Americans within the profession. It does sponsor an annual essay prize for undergraduate and graduate students. This award, however, is intended for current students and is not intended to attract future scholars into the profession. In all likelihood, however, the annual meetings of the ASALH provide a congenial place for young African-American scholars to not only present the results of their research in a friendly environment but to receive further encouragement in pursuing their studies that may be lacking at the larger predominately-white association meetings.

Association of Black Women Historians

The ABWH has also no program specifically intended to recruit African-American women into the profession. It sponsors two graduate scholarships at the MA and PhD levels, but these are intended for current students and are not intended to increase the number of minority historians. Nevertheless, the ABWH, like the ASALH, provides support networks for young African-American female scholars currently lacking in the institutional framework of the larger predominately white historical associations. Such networks will be crucial to implementing future programs that address inequities among history faculty.


The historical profession has denounced racial discrimination at all levels and committed itself to the laudable goal of encouraging greater numbers of minorities into the profession. Unfortunately, historians have largely absented themselves from formally implementing programs in pursuit of that aim. While many departments have affirmative action programs in place for graduate admissions and faculty recruitment, like OAH, and some have even instituted fellowship and scholarship programs designed to attract minority students, no national association has any recruitment strategy in place. The measures taken thus far have led to modest gains. According to the NRC, from 1984 to 1992, the percentage of white recipients of history PhD’s was between 87.7% and 89.2%; minority recipients held steady from 7.5% to 8.8%. By 1996, whites earned 87.1% of 762 doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens, while minorities earned 10.6% (7). Although there has been a slow increase, the lack of a national strategy has arguably hurt the profession and failed to significantly increase the number of minority scholars in academia.

III. Outside Fields

Although the historical profession has fared badly on the issue of devising strategies for increased minority representation, other fields in the humanities have generally fared poorly as well. However, the social sciences, health, and medicine have done a better job at minority recruitment. This section looks briefly at selected disciplines in the humanities, the social sciences, law and medicine and summarizes their programs. The purpose is to see what other disciplines are doing and to find out which programs have been the most successful. To obtain this information, the author surveyed websites for the various associations and inquired further by e-mail for relevant details. Although this is not a comprehensive survey, it does present some preliminary information on what various disciplines are attempting to do to increase the numbers of minorities within their respective professions. The fields discussed here include American Studies, Anthropology, Economics, Health and Medicine, Literature, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology.

American Studies

The American Studies Association (ASA) contains over five thousand members. It does not offer any specific program for recruiting minorities into its discipline. ASA has instituted a Minority Scholars’ Committee which informs the ASA administration about issues affecting minority scholars in the field. The Committee also helps to organize sessions geared to ethnic minority scholars at their annual meetings and supports efforts linking ethnic studies fields with their counterparts in American Studies. The Committee promises that such efforts will focus on increasing the numbers of minority scholars in American Studies, and recently the ASA website has featured a number of links and items of interest for African-American, Native-American, Latino, and Asian-American scholars.


The American Anthropology Association (AAA) has more than ten thousand members. The AAA’s Department of Minority Affairs has established three goals: attracting and retaining ethnic minorities to anthropology, improving the discipline’s image among Native Americans, and advocating a more visible role for the discipline in public debates about cultural diversity. The department also conducts an annual survey among graduate programs to determine the number of ethnic minority students in anthropology. They are also in the process of developing a comprehensive database of minority anthropologists which can be consulted by employers seeking to recruit faculty or researchers. Finally, the department seeks to support scholarship by ethnic minorities in the discipline, although the AAA does not sponsor fellowships to reward and encourage promising young minority students.

The Department of Minority Affairs has its roots in 1970, when the AAA first appointed a Committee on Minority Participation. In 1971, a new Committee on Minorities and Anthropology was appointed with the purpose of surveying the entire field. The Committee finished its work in 1973 and reported that severe problems and tensions existed in the profession. Many minority anthropologists complained of not having their work taken seriously enough, the low visibility of minorities in the profession, and the isolation many scholars felt working in predominately white departments. The Committee made several recommendations and for some inexplicable reason appears to have been disbanded following its work. Although efforts were made in the 1980’s to start some kind of program to increase anthropology’s visibility among minorities, including a Committee on Anthropology in Predominately Minority Institutions, these efforts apparently failed. In 1992, a new commission was appointed by the AAA which recommended the formal establishment of a committee on minority issues. Despite these efforts, the AAA has failed to implement a specific program for minority recruitment. A brief look at the NRC data confirms the slow rate of movement on this issue. From 1984 to 1996, white PhD recipients in anthropology have numbered between 85.6% and 88.9%, while minority PhD recipients earned between 7.6% to 11.7% (8).


The American Economic Association (AEA) has approximately 22,000 members. It does not offer any specific program for recruiting minorities into the profession. It sponsors an eight-week Summer Training Program at the University of Texas at Austin open to all UT undergraduates regardless of race or ethnicity. However, the AEA offers scholarships for minority UT students to attend the Summer Training Program. Intended for African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans, the scholarship package pays tuition, room, board, books, health insurance, transportation, and a $2000 stipend.

The AEA’s Summer Training Program encourages college juniors to enroll who have completed courses in economics, calculus, and statistics. The program has three goals: 1) to develop skills necessary for graduate school; 2) to expose students to professional issues in the field; and 3) to inform students of professional opportunities in economics. Participants take three courses and receive nine credit hours. In addition, four faculty members team teach the courses, and several graduate students are employed as teaching assistants or lab assistants. Finally, the program offers a weekly seminar series featuring presentations by economists on public policy or career development issues.

Whether the summer program has influenced minority students to enter the discipline is difficult to ascertain. Compared to other fields, economics has always had a large number of minority PhD recipients, although they have been primarily Asian-Americans. For instance, in 1984, 496 PhD’s in economics were awarded to U.S. citizens. Of that number, 85% were white and 13.1% were minorities. Of the 65 minorities awarded PhD’s in economics, 32 were Asian-American. By 1996, 518 total PhD’s were awarded to U.S. citizens; 384 were white (74.1%) and 125 were minorities (24.1%). The huge increase, however, primarily occurred among Asian-Americans (88 out of 125 minority recipients). African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans lagged far behind whites and Asian-Americans (9). The point here is not to single out Asian-Americans as undeserving of affirmative action. Indeed, it is problematic at best to use the term Asian-American or Hispanic American, since both categories are social constructions and encompass broad generalizations. How much of the growth among Asian-American PhD’s, for instance, occurs among Americans of Chinese or Japanese descent rather than Filipino or Vietnamese descent is not discernable from the NRC data. Nonetheless, it is useful to know that the jump in minority PhD’s in economics has occurred primarily among those who identify themselves as Asian-American, while little growth has occurred for other minority groups.

Health and Medicine

Comparing the humanities and social sciences with professional fields in health and medicine is difficult and problematic at best. For instance, many medical school faculty do not have to earn the PhD in order to secure a teaching appointment, a virtual prerequisite for most fields in the humanities and social sciences. As a result, many research universities arguably do not need to recruit minorities specifically into doctoral programs. Nevertheless, it is useful to examine the programs for minority recruitment which have been implemented.

The leading organization among health and biological science professionals for our purposes is the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). The AAMC sponsors several initiatives on minorities and minority issues; however, only two are relevant to our task. The Project 3000 by 2000/Health Professions Partnership Initiative was launched in 1991 to address the under representation of minority medical school students. Recognizing the lack of minorities in other health professions such as nursing and in graduate health and biological science programs, the AAMC expanded the program in 1995 to cover these areas as well (the Health Professions Partnership Initiative or HPPI).

The Project 3000 by 2000’s goal was simple: to increase the number of minority medical students to 3000 by the year 2000. In pursuit of this goal, the AAMC created a national network comprised of three components: public school systems, undergraduate colleges, and academic medical centers. Each academic medical center analyzed the size and academic preparation of the potential minority student pool in its area. Then the centers (usually through an appointed project coordinator) assessed the strengths and weaknesses of local schools in their areas in regards to premedical education. The coordinators then developed and implemented a strategy designed to increase the pool of minority applicants.

In 1995, the 3000 by 2000 project received a boost when the AAMC expanded its original purpose and created the HPPI. Simultaneously, the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation awarded a $5 million grant to cover the project’s expenses. The HPPI established fourteen academic health centers to achieve Project 3000 x 2000’s goals. Centers were established between public school systems, undergraduate universities, and medical schools in ten states. For example, in Louisville, Kentucky, the Louisville HPPI became operational in 1996 involving the University of Louisville Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Allied Health, and the Undergraduate Campus, the Jefferson County Public Schools, the West Louisville Area Health Center, and three private academies. Program participants focused on encouraging and strengthening the academic preparation of K-12 and college minority students.

To date, Project 3000 x 2000 has had moderate success. Since 1990, the number of under represented minorities in medical schools had increased from 1,470 in 1990 to 2,010 in 1995–a 37% increase. It is also important to note that many schools have been inspired by the project to either implement the project’s initiatives or construct their own program. For instance, sixty-six medical schools reported in a 1996 that they had implemented the project, despite the lack of financial resources, up from twenty-three in 1993. Whether these minority students will continue to matriculate and pursue both an academic and practice-oriented career remains to be seen. However, a quick look at the NRC data shows that from 1984 to 1992, whites obtained between 86% and 89% of all PhD’s awarded in the biological and health sciences to U.S. citizens; minorities obtained between 8.4% and 12.4%. By 1996, 5381 PhD’s were awarded to U.S. citizens; 74.2% were white and 24.5% were minority. Unfortunately, little progress has been made on increasing the numbers of African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans. The vast majority of minority PhD recipients in these fields were Asian-American (74.1%). That is actually an increase from 1992, when Asian-Americans earned 57.6% of all doctorates awarded in the biological and health sciences. Moreover, it must be stressed that the NRC data covers PhD’s awarded in fields such as biochemistry, anatomy, the neurosciences, toxicology, speech pathology, public health, nursing, and pharmacy. It does not cover medical doctors or dentists (10).

A second program sponsored by the AAMC is the Minority Medical Education Program (MMEP). Established in 1989, the program offers summer educational experiences to help minority students gain admission to medical schools. Over 6,400 college students have participated in MMEP, with 2500 applying to medical school. Almost 62% of these applicants were accepted. MMEP students participate in a six-week summer enrichment program in science and math that included a clinical laboratory experience. The program also includes preparation for the Medical College Admissions Test and counseling on the application process. All students who are African-American, Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, and Native American who have completed at least one year of college and maintain a 3.0 grade point average are eligible to apply. If necessary, stipends are awarded to defray travel and living expenses.

Several medical schools have begun promising efforts on their own designed to enlarge the minority faculty pool. One example is the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Comprehensive Minority Faculty Development program, operated by the school’s Center of Excellence on Minority Health. Established in 1991 to attract and recruit minorities to become medical school professors, the program concentrates on undergraduate preparation, medical school education, resident and postdoctoral training, and faculty development. The center sponsors a Pre-Medicine Enrichment Program for Minority Undergraduates during the summer, which invites 10-15 college students, primarily from historically black colleges, for a ten-week intensive experience in research, clinical observations, lectures, and seminars designed to stimulate their interests in academic medicine and help them in applying to medical school. Since 1991, 59 students have completed the program; 38 have received BA degrees. Of these 38, 25 applied to medical schools and 23 were accepted. Of the remaining thirteen, several plan to attend medical school later or enrolled in other health related graduate programs. Despite the program’s limited success, the main difficulties have been limited funding, a shortage of faculty mentors who can participate, and the decentralized nature of medical schools which prevents comprehensive planning and organization.

Other programs run by the center focus on improving the research skills of minority students already enrolled in medical schools and engaging in minority faculty recruitment and development efforts. Beginning in 1993, these programs have attracted more minority students into academic medicine and increased the percentage of minority faculty on campus. For instance, from 1993 to 1997, the percentage of minority faculty at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine increased from 3.3% to 3.7%. These figures, however, mask the overall gains in recruiting; while the number of white faculty members increased 16% between 1993 and 1997, the number of minority faculty members increased 32% during the same period (11).

English Language Literature

The Modern Language Association (MLA) has more than 30,000 members. Like other humanities disciplines, it does not offer any specific recruitment strategy for minority graduate students into the study of American and English Literature. It has a minority affairs committee that organizes events and programs for the MLA annual convention and sponsors publications which enhance the interests of MLA members who are researching and teaching multicultural literature. The MLA has also supported public statements which encourage increased minority representation in graduate programs.

An analysis of recent NRC data indicates that, like other disciplines, there has been a slow but noticeable change in the awarding of PhD’s to minorities. From 1984 and 1992, whites obtained between 90.8% and 92.2% of all doctorates in English language literature, while minorities received between 6.2% and 7.8% of all doctorates. By 1996, however, the minority percentage had substantially risen to 10.7%. Just as impressive was the actual number of doctorates granted to minorities, which increased from 49 in 1984 to only 57 in 1992, then leapfrogged to 112 in 1996 (12). Whether this change reflects greater attention to and action from individual graduate programs is uncertain.


The American Philosophical Association (APA) is the largest organization representing philosophers. Containing more than 9,000 members, the APA does not have a specific recruitment strategy in place. It has apparently assisted in sponsoring a summer institute at Rutgers University for minority philosophy majors in their junior or senior years. The week-long program aims to encourage minority students to pursue a career in philosophy. Unfortunately, specific information has not been obtained about the program’s success.

Like other humanities disciplines, philosophy has shown a slow but steady increase in the number and percentage of minority PhD’s. In 1984, minorities obtained 5.4% of all PhD’s awarded to U.S. citizens. By 1996, that figure had increased to 9.5% (13). The APA does have a Committee on Blacks in Philosophy and a Committee on Hispanics. Only the Committee on Hispanics has explicitly highlighted minority recruitment as one of its purposes. Nonetheless, both committees work actively to increase awareness about minority issues in the profession.

Political Science

The American Political Science Association (APSA) has over 13,500 members. Unlike most of the humanities and social sciences, it has established three programs aimed at increasing minority enrollment in graduate political science programs. The Minority Identification Project provides a database of minority undergraduates who may be interested in pursuing graduate work. Established in 1991, the project solicits the names of promising juniors and seniors from undergraduate faculty. Participating graduate programs recruit from the list provided by the project, and make every effort to find financial aid for those admitted.

A second program sponsored by APSA is the Minority Fellows Program. Begun in 1969, the program solicits applications from minorities at the start of their graduate careers who wish to pursue a political science PhD. Each year, three African-American, two Hispanic American, and one Native American fellow are selected for a one-year grant totaling $6000. Fellows without stipend are also selected and strongly recommended by the APSA for financial support at their respective institutions. Since the program’s inception, it has awarded assistance to over three hundred minority students.

The third APSA program is the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute. Begun in 1988 and hosted by the University of Virginia, the institute invites applications from African-American college juniors. The institute’s literature does not specify whether other minorities are invited to apply as well. Fifteen students are selected to take part in a five-week intensive session featuring two courses on quantitative methods and race in American politics. The six credits are transferable to other undergraduate universities. In addition, students receive preparation for the Graduate Record Examination and support for the admissions process. Guest lecturers and recruiters visit daily from graduate programs, and students have unimpeded access to the university’s facilities. Finally, meals, housing, and transportation to and from Charlottesville is paid for by the University of Virginia. As a bonus, students are required to write a research paper which may be selected for presentation at the APSA annual meeting.

It is difficult to gauge the success of all three APSA programs, although the Bunche Institute proudly claims that three of its graduates of its graduates have secured faculty positions as assistant professors. The programs have only been active for a short while and undoubtably many participants are still in their graduate careers. In addition, political science has always enjoyed a higher success rate at attracting minorities than other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. For instance, in 1984, whites garnered 81.1% of all PhD’s awarded to U.S. citizens, while minorities obtained 13.1%. However, in 1996, whites received 80.4% of PhD’s, while minorities received 18% (14).


The American Psychological Association (APA) has more than 142,000 members. It has established an Office on Ethnic Minority Affairs (OEMA) which coordinates several programs aimed at increasing minority representation in the discipline. Begun before OEMA was established, the APA Minority Fellowship Program has existed for twenty-three years. Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, these fellowships are awarded for a maximum of three years. Upon completion of their training, fellows are required to provide clinical services to under-served populations equal to the length of their award. Since 1974, fellowship program has benefitted almost 900 minority graduate students.

In addition, OEMA has implemented a Minority Undergraduate Students of Excellence (MUSE) program. The MUSE project acts as a clearinghouse for minority recruitment by gathering information on promising psychology undergraduates and distributing it to graduate programs. Since 1992, the program has annually listed between 200-300 undergraduates. African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Native Americans are eligible to apply. OEMA also administers the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Initiative. This program provides small grants to historically black institutions to help recruit African-American college students into pursuing a major in psychology. However, it is not clear if participating black colleges act as a `feeder’ for graduate programs. OEMA has also developed four brochures–one for high school students and one for college students. The brochures describe what psychologists do, offer tips on preparing to major in psychology, and advice on developing mentor relationships. A third brochure provides in-depth advice to college seniors on applying to graduate programs, such as how to write a personal statement, how to choose the best program for their needs, and what to look for in on-site visits. The fourth brochure offers suggestions to psychology departments on recruiting and retaining talented faculty of color and how to provide a more inclusive environment.

Finally, OEMA has established Diversity Project 2000. Originally started by Psi Beta in 1994–a national honor society for community college students interested in psychology–DP 2000 hosts a two-day workshop prior to the APA annual convention for twenty-five top community college minority students who are interested in pursuing psychology careers. The workshops provide an intense introduction to the discipline, then each student is assigned a mentor, who may be a professor, practitioner, or graduate student. During the annual convention, mentors guide their students around and introduce them to other psychologists.

It is difficult to state precisely the effect these programs have had on minority recruitment, since all with the exception of the Minority Fellowship Program began in the 1990’s. Nevertheless, the NRC data show a dramatic improvement since the early part of the decade. From 1984 to 1992, the percentage of minority PhD recipients who were U.S. citizens was between 8.6% and 9.8%, while white PhD’s hovered between 88.8% and 89.9%. By 1996, however, the minority percentage had increased significantly to 14.6% of PhD recipients who were U.S. citizens, while the white percentage declined to 84.9%. This significant shift occurred in spite of the record number of doctorates awarded in psychology during 1996 (3105 to U.S. citizens) (15).


The American Sociological Association (ASA) contains more than 13,000 members. Since 1975, it has operated a predoctoral fellowship program for minority students. About thirty graduate students each year receive fellowship support and additional mentoring. African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Native Americans are eligible to apply. Fellows are free to pursue their degree in different graduate programs. ASA also supports a Minority Opportunities through School Transformation (MOST) program which is funded by the Ford Foundation. The MOST program works with eighteen sociology departments on faculty issues such as minority recruitment, retention, research, and curriculum. Finally, ASA has established a Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities, which awards several prizes and studies affirmative action issues.

Similar to political science, sociology has always had a high percentage of minority PhD recipients. Nevertheless, the NRC data shows a steady improvement since the mid-1980’s. In 1984, minorities earned 13.1% of the 434 doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens; whites earned 86%. By 1996, the minority percentage had increased to 21.2% of the 420 PhD’s, while the white percentage had declined to 77.1% (16).

IV. Conclusions

This analysis briefly summarizes what many disciplinary associations in the humanities and social sciences are attempting to do to increase minority enrollment. In addition to History, the fields covered included American Studies, Anthropology, English-language Literature, and Philosophy in the humanities; Economics, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology in the social sciences; and the Biological and Health Sciences, including Medicine. This survey reveals that, with the exception of the Organization of American Historians and the American Philosophical Association, few organizations in the humanities have implemented either fellowship aid or summer programs designed to address minority under representation in graduate schools. However, the social sciences, particularly the disciplines of Political Science and Psychology, have shown much greater attention and willingness to address the problem directly with resources. The American Association of Medical Colleges has also attempted to address the problem with an elaborate network of public school systems, undergraduate colleges, and prominent academic medical centers, as well as a typical summer program for minority students.

In my opinion, the Organization of American Historians (OAH), either with other historical associations or by itself, must and hopefully should be able to implement several measures designed to increase minority representation in graduate history programs. The entire effort could be called the Minority Recruitment Initiative. It would have several components:

1) Enlarging the pool: One of the problems facing the historical profession is the lack of research data examining what the barriers are which exist for minority students who are attracted to the study of history. To my knowledge, no study has been initiated which examines this problem at length. Such a study will have to be national in scope and fairly comprehensive. For example, many African-American undergraduate history majors are located at historically black colleges. These students should be queried as to what attracted them to history, whether they plan to continue in graduate school, if so, would they continue in history, and what financial barriers, if any, exist for them. These studies should also interview minority students in related fields, such as literature, sociology, and political science for their views on history and the historical profession. Barring a national effort sponsored by the major historical associations, departments should be encouraged to undertake their own research at their respective universities and colleges.

Once these studies have been initiated and completed, programs must be implemented to recruit minorities into the profession. One possibility is to establish a High School Scholars Seminar, such as the one currently operated by the History Department at the University of Memphis. Three times each semester, outstanding high school students in the Memphis area are invited to the campus to join in a two-hour seminar. Topics are changed with each seminar, and faculty and graduate students typically give a paper followed by extensive discussion with the students. Whether the program is designed to increase minority enrollment in history and, if so, what the program’s success rate has been is unknown.

2) Identify minority areas: Connected with the above goal on enlarging the pool, the OAH must identify geographical areas where the profession is most likely to draw minority recruits from. For example, the NRC reported that from 1992 to 1996, of the top eighteen baccalaureate institutions which produced African-Americans who went on to obtain the PhD, eleven were historically black institutions. Howard University, the top institution, alone produced 10% of black BA’s who advanced to the PhD level. Of the remaining seven colleges, five were from major metropolitan areas: Wayne State in Detroit, Chicago State, the University of Maryland-College Park in the Baltimore-Washington area, CUNY in New York, and Temple University in Philadelphia. The last two were the University of Michigan and Michigan State University (17).

The NRC also reported that of the top twenty institutions which produced Hispanic baccalaureates who obtained the PhD, three were in Puerto Rico: the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, and Catholic University of Puerto Rico. These three accounted for 45% of all Hispanic BA’s who went on to the doctorate level. Although other top schools were in Florida, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California, no other institutions approached the success rate of the University of Puerto Rico for graduating top Hispanic students (18). For Native Americans, the pattern was similar. Of the top seventeen institutions which produced students who eventually pursued the PhD, five were in Oklahoma: the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Northeast Oklahoma State University, the University of Central Oklahoma, and Oklahoma Baptist University. Altogether the five produced 41% of all Native American PhD’s (19). Asian-American scholars followed the predominate white pattern. Most top Asian-American students who advanced to PhD programs emerged from elite schools such as the Ivy League, Virginia, Johns Hopkins, Duke, Chicago, Stanford, UC-Berkeley, and UCLA. It is clear that if the historical profession wishes to enlarge the pool of minority history majors and potential applicants for graduate school, it must concentrate its efforts on Historically Black Institutions, urban teaching-oriented universities in major cities, and universities in Puerto Rico and Oklahoma, in addition to welcoming students from elite schools.

3) Summer Institutes: Once jeographical areas have been targeted, the profession must contact schools and departments in the areas to join in the Minority Recruitment Initiative. Their support will be crucial to making the initiative successful. Summer Institutes with ten to fifteen students in each could be established which would be similar in design to the Economics and Political Science models or the University of Pennsylvania program. These institutes should be located in key areas that we know are graduating high numbers of top minority students. For instance, institutes could be established in Puerto Rico, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore/Washington, D.C., Raleigh/Durham, Atlanta, Miami, Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, Houston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, San Antonio, Chicago, Detroit, Oklahoma City, Denver, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Oakland/San Francisco. The institutes could last eight days or eight weeks, but they should provide an intense introduction to the discipline. The eight-week model appears more favorable because it allows for college credit to be awarded and it allows for the possibility of requiring research papers using primary source materials. The institutes could be open to juniors and seniors and could feature a team approach where a different faculty member discussed each week their particular concentration and work, or departments may chose to offer a specific course or two on historiography/historical methods and race in American history. From time to time, guests could be brought in from other universities either to discuss their work and/or to recruit. Furthermore, GRE test experts and admissions counselors should be brought in to provide advice and guidance. Each host university could and should be able to pay for transportation, meals, housing, and health insurance; the OAH could debate the merits of providing stipends to participants.

4) Follow-up: After the institute sessions have ended, the OAH must continue to communicate with those students who participated. Students should be asked how the OAH and participating departments could improve their efforts, and their suggestions should be followed when feasible. The OAH should also establish a minority registry which contains the names and other vital information of institute participants for graduate programs to recruit from. A quarterly newsletter could be published that lists information from graduate programs, tips for the application and selection process, and updated information about former participants. Finally, there should be an annual gathering of institute members, which could take place at the annual meeting. This would not only allow for camaraderie, but it would also lead to new networks being established between minority scholars. Every effort should be made to stay in contact with former institute members in order to judge the Minority Recruitment Initiative’s success.

These recommendations and any others can only be implemented with an appropriation of time, energy, and resources. The historical profession must decide whether it wishes to maintain the current status quo, whereby many elite graduate programs will produce perhaps one minority out of every twenty doctorates in history each year. At the same time, the number of departments advertising for scholars who can teach African-American History, Asian-American History, Hispanic-American History, Native American History, Race and Ethnicity in American History, etc., has never been higher. Many of these positions are being filled out of necessity by white American scholars. Some might question the appropriateness of this due to concerns that “whites cannot teach minority history.” Others might dismiss such concerns as “ethnocentric” or “reverse racism.” However, in recent years many historians have argued that “true” objectivity can never be reached. The profession must decide if race and ethnic background does affect the quality of teaching and research of history and, if so, to take affirmative and concrete steps to eliminate the current disparities. If the profession does agree that teaching and research has been and always will be a subjective enterprise, to move forward without constructing and implementing a national strategy will not only be a futile and frustrating effort, but it will also legitimize the claims of many minority scholars that the historical profession is only concerned with “bringing in” race, gender, and ethnicity in classroom discussion and not with changing the physical makeup of the profession.


  1. National Research Council, Science, Engineering, and Humanities Doctorates in the United States, 1981 Profile (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1981), 44; National Research Council, Humanities Doctorates in the United States, 1991 Profile (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1991), 6; National Research Council, Humanities Doctorates in the United States, 1995 Profile (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1995), 30.
  2. National Research Council, Summary Report 1975-1995, Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities, (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1975-1995).
  3. National Research Council, Science, Engineering, and Humanities Doctorates in the United States, 1981 Profile (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1981), 44; National Research Council, Humanities Doctorates in the United States, 1995 Profile (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1995), 30.
  4. Arnita Jones, “Affirmative Action in History: What Difference Has It Made?” OAH Newsletter 25 (August 1997): 18-19.
  5. National Research Council, Humanities Doctorates in the United States, 1995 Profile (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1995), 30.
  6. In 1981, 16.3% of history doctorates in the United States were women; by 1995, that figure had leaped to 21.3%. The gains are even more impressive when it is observed that the profession as a whole grew from 20,300 to 23,000 during that fourteen-year span, indicating that much of the new growth in history doctorates occurred among women. However, since the white percentage of history doctorates actually increased between 1981 and 1995, one would assume that the growth occurred primarily among white women. Ibid.; National Research Council, Science, Engineering, and Humanities Doctorates in the United States, 1981 Profile (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1981), 44.
  7. National Research Council, Summary Report 1984-1996, Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1984-1996).
  8. Ibid.Ibid. Between 1984 and 1996, for example, the numbers of African-Americans earning the PhD in economics each year hovered between 15 and 22. In 1984, one Native-American received a PhD in economics; there were none in 1988, 1992, and 1996.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Jerry C. Johnson, et al., “Extending the Pipeline for Minority Physicians: A Comprehensive Program for Minority Faculty Development,” Academic Medicine 73 (March 1998): 237-44.
  11. National Research Council, Summary Report 1984-1996, Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1984-1996).
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. National Research Council, Summary Report 1996, Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities(Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996), 72.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid.