Dr. John Henrik Clarke
Historian, Scholar, Educator
“History is not everything but it is a starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are but, more importantly, where they must be.”
“A people’s relationship to their heritage is the same as the relationship of a child to its mother.”
“To hold a people in oppression you have to convince them first that they are supposed to be oppressed.”
In 1986, the Africana Library was named in honor of John Henrik Clarke, who was widely recognized as a pioneer in the field of Africana Studies. Dr. Clarke played an important role in the early history of Cornell University's Africana Studies & Research Center. He was a Distinguished Visiting Professor of African History at the Center in the 1970s. He also made an invaluable contribution to the establishment of its curricula.
Dr. Clarke is the author of numerous articles that have appeared in leading scholarly journals. He also served as the author, contributor, or editor of 24 books. In 1968 along with the Black Caucus of the African Studies Association, Dr. Clarke founded the African Heritage Studies Association. In 1969 he was appointed as the founding chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Studies Department at Hunter College in New York City.
Dr. Clarke was most known and highly regarded for his lifelong devotion to studying and documenting the histories and contributions of African peoples in Africa and the diaspora.
Dr. Clarke is often quoted as stating that "History is not everything, but it is a starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are, but more importantly, what they must be."