Turner Laid Foundation for African-American Studies - Higher Education: As a graduate English student at a Michigan university more than 40 years ago, Melba Joyce Boyd sat in on a seminar that featured a speaker who has had a profound impact on her career.
The speaker was a highly regarded African-American professor of English from the University of Michigan by the name of Darwin Turner, and his topic was Black drama. Black professors on predominantly White university campuses were rare then. Rarer still was an acknowledgment of African-American studies as worthy of scholarship.
“A professor of mine told me that in a meeting with the department chair and the university president, the department head had said he didn’t think Black American literature was a legitimate genre and he wouldn’t recognize it,” says Boyd, now a distinguished professor and chair of Africana studies at Wayne State University in Detroit. “He was overruled by the president, so he had to offer it. [But] that’s the level of resistance that was coming from the power structure. It made it very difficult for me. And in the throes of this, Darwin shows up.”