The two sound similar but each has its pedigree. Howard University in Washington DC sounds similar to Harvard University but Howard speaks to a more sensitive ancestry or symbolism in that country. The New York Times calls it “the renowned historically Black institution that was founded to educate freed slaves”. It is now to be led by Ben Vinson III, a Prof of History.
The Latin American academic is heading to Howard at a time the institution is said to have surged, with record research grants and high-profile academic hires. If the newspaper and other accounts are anything to go by, Ben Vinson III would be leaving the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland where he has been the Provost to resume at Howard on September 1st, 2023. He will be the 18th president of Howard, the 156-year-old university which has among its alumni Kamala Harris, incumbent Vice-President of the United States and Justice Thurgood Marshall, the black philosopher-jurist. Writer Toni Morrison would also be on that list. The list can reach Addis Ababa from Washington if anyone takes the time to count just the leading ones across the world.
There are no other hints beyond snippets that refer to him as the right person to lead Howard University to the next era but The New York Times gives a background of a scholar who has circulated very well in US academia: from serving as the founding director of the Center for Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University to holding the Deanage of George Washington University’s liberal arts and sciences college. There, he also taught History, a subject he is published in with a number of books.
As it is today, both Howard and Harvard universities hive black presidents: Prof Claudine Gay from Haiti in Harvard and now Vinson at Howard.