Learn how Nathan Hare became one of the greatest pioneers of Black studies in America, and how his impacts still change the American educational system.
Though their contributions to the fabric of American society have been – and continue to be – made year-round, it’s in February that Black Americans are recognized for the work they’ve done to advance the causes of justice and freedom in this country. From fighting against the forces of ignorance and prejudice to lifting up those relegated to second-class status, a host of Black activists, academics, and leaders have dedicated their lives to leveling the playing field for people of color, including a man who introduced the study of Black America to the halls and classrooms of the nation’s many educational institutions: Dr. Nathan Hare. As part of our celebration of Black History Month, we’ll examine Dr. Hare’s lasting impact on education in America; keep reading to learn more.
On April 9, 1933, Nathan Hare was born at a sharecropper farm where his father worked as a tenant farmer, just outside the town of Slick in Creek County, Oklahoma. At the time, the local school system was segregated, so Hare attended L’Ouverture Elementary School, an all-Black institution. At the age of 11, Hare moved with his family to San Diego, where his mother got a job at the Navy air station, but with the conclusion of World War II, she was laid off, and the family returned to Oklahoma.
Although Hare had plans to enter the world of professional boxing, his goals shifted in ninth grade when he was chosen to represent his class at an Interscholastic Meet at Langston University. While there, Hare won first prize – one of many awards he would earn while in school. After this experience, Hare was persuaded to attend college, and he eventually enrolled at Langston University, which at the time was the only college in Oklahoma that admitted Black students.
In his time as a student at Langston, Nathan Hare earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Sociology, after which he won a Danforth Fellowship that allowed him to pursue graduate degrees at the University of Chicago. It was there that Hare was awarded a Master of Arts (MA) in Sociology, followed by a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in the same subject. In 1975, Dr. Hare also earned a second doctorate, this time in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology.
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots,” wrote the activist Marcus Garvey, and few have done more to educate students on the history and culture of Black Americans than Dr. Nathan Hare, considered by many to be the father of Black Studies.
Dr. Hare first began his work in academia as an assistant professor of sociology at Howard University in Washington, D.C. During his time there, the young Dr. Hare championed the cause of Howard University as an institution committed to shaping Black minds, even going so far as to publicly disagree with then-university president James Nabrit’s goal of having a student body that was 60% white by 1970. Not long after, Dr. Hare was dismissed from his teaching post, but he was not long out of work; San Francisco State College (known today as San Francisco State University) quickly recruited Hare to develop a new area of study at the school.
Dr. Hare’s first order of business was to write a proposal for a Black studies program at San Francisco State, which was to be the first of its kind in the U.S. After its creation, Dr. Hare led the department for two semesters, during which time he coined the term “ethnic studies” to succeed the outdated “minority studies” label. For his work, Dr. Hare is often referred to as the “father of Black Studies.”
At San Francisco State, as at Howard, Dr. Hare took issue with the actions and attitude of the school’s president; during a 1968 student strike at the college, Dr. Hare was among a group that took to the stage during a press conference, interrupting the remarks of college president S.I. Hayakawa before eventually being removed by police who were waiting at the event. Again, Dr. Hare was dismissed from his position.
This time, Dr. Hare’s path took him away from higher education. Instead, he sought to create a platform for himself and others interested in advancing the nascent field of Black studies, the result of which was the creation of a scholarly journal called “The Black Scholar: A Journal of Black Studies and Research,” which is still published to this day.
In 1975, Dr. Hare decided to leave the journal, pivoting once again to work as a clinical psychologist in both community settings and his own private practice. A few years later, he and his wife, Julia, created the Black Think Tank with the aim of tackling problems specific to the African American community. Dr. Hare is also the author of several books, the recipient of numerous awards, and a speaker who has delivered many presentations and lectures in a variety of professional and academic settings.
From a desire to dominate the world of boxing to a career as a renowned scholar and psychologist, Dr. Nathan Hare’s life has gone in some unexpected directions – something that can be said for many of us. To help you and your family prepare for the future, whatever it may hold, consider opening a 529 plan today. With help from the free Sootchy app, it’s easier than ever to start one of these tax-advantaged accounts and start saving for your loved one’s education. Learn more by visiting us online or downloading our mobile app.