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Nathan Hare

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Nathan Hare

Nathan Hare (born April 9, 1933) was the first person hired to coordinate a black studies program in the United States, at San Francisco State University in 1968.

Early life and education

Hare was born on a sharecropper’s farm near the Creek County town of Slick, Oklahoma, on April 9, 1933. He attended the public schools of L’Ouverture (variously spelled "Louverture") Elementary School and L'Ouverture High School. The two schools were named after the Haitian Revolutionary and General Toussaint Louverture and were part of the so-called “Slick Separate Schools” in the segregated rural milieu of the late 1930s and 1940s.

When Hare was eleven years old, his family migrated to San Diego, California, where his single mother took a civilian janitorial job with the Navy air station. As World War II ended and his mother was laid off, his family returned to Oklahoma. This put on hold his ambition to become a professional boxer, something he had picked up after adult neighbors in San Diego assured him that writers all starve to death.

The direction of his life would change again when his English teacher at L'Ouverture High (later closed after the Brown vs Board of Education Supreme Court desegregaton decree, through consolidation into the all-white Slick High School, itself now also closed by consolidation) administered standardized tests to her ninth grade class in English Composition in the search for someone to represent the class at the annual statewide "Interscholastic Meet" of the black students held annually at Oklahoma’s Langston University. Hare represented L'Ouverture and won first prize with more prizes to come in ensuing years; and on that basis the L’Ouverture principal persuaded him to go to college after getting him a full-time job working in the Langston University Dining Hall to pay his way. By his junior year Hare had moved up in his student employment to Dormitory Proctor of the University Men and Freshman Tutor in his senior year.

When Hare enrolled at Langston University (now only "historically black"), Langston was the only college Black students could attend in the state of Oklahoma. Named for John Mercer Langston, one of only five African Americans elected to Congress from the South before the former Confederate states passed constitutions that essentially eliminated the black vote, the town was a product of the late nineteenth century black nationalist movement’s attempt to make the Oklahoma Territory an all-Black state. In fact, Langston, Oklahoma laid claim to being the first all-black town established in the United States. One of Hare’s professors, the poet Melvin B. Tolson, was mayor of the town for four terms, was named poet laureate of Liberia, and eventually his spectacular style of teaching would be portrayed in "The Great Debaters." Graduating from Langston with an AB in Sociology, Hare won a Danforth fellowship to continue his education and obtained an MA (1957) and PhD in Sociology (1962) from the University of Chicago. Hare received another PhD in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology in San Francisco, California (1975).

Black Studies

Hare wrote the “Conceptual Proposal for a Department of Black Studies" and coined the term “ethnic studies” (which was being called “minority studies”) after he was recruited to San Francisco State in February 1968 by the Black Student Union leader Jimmy Garrett and the college’s liberal president, John Summerskill. Hare had just been dismissed from a six-year stint as a sociology professor at Howard University, after he wrote a letter to the campus newspaper, The Hilltop, in which he mocked Howard president James Nabrit’s plan (announced in the Washington Post on September 6, 1966) to make Howard “sixty per cent white by 1970.” James Nabrit had been one of the civil rights attorneys who successfully argued the 1954 “Brown vs. Board of Education” case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The “Black Power” cry had been issued just two month’s earlier by one of Hare’s former Howard students, Stokely Carmichael (another of Hare’s students at Howard was Claude Brown, author of Manchild in the Promised Land). Hare had taught sociology at Howard since 1961, the year before he obtained the Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago.

On February 22, 1967, Hare stood at press conference, with a group of students calling themselves “The Black Power Committee,” and read “The Black University Manifesto,” which Hare had written with the input of the Black Power Committee. The manifesto expressly called for “the overthrow of the Negro college with white innards and to raise in its place a black university, relevant to the black community and its needs." Hare had previously published a book called The Black Anglo Saxons and coined the phrase “The Ebony Tower” to characterize Howard University.

In the spring of 1967, he invited Muhammad Ali to speak at Howard and introduced him when the controversial heavyweight champion gave his popular “Black Is Best” speech to an impromptu crowd of 4,000 gathered at a moment’s notice outside the university’s Frederick Douglass Hall after the administration padlocked the Crampton Auditorium in the days leading up to Ali’s refusal of his military draft. Following Hare’s dismissal that June, he briefly resumed his own aborted professional boxing efforts, winning his last fight by a knockout in the first round in the Washington Coliseum on December 5, 1967.

At San Francisco State, where the Black Student Union demanded an “autonomous Department of Black Studies,” Hare was soon involved in a five-month strike for black studies led by The Black Student Union, backed by the Third World Liberation Front and the local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. Black, white, and Third World students and professors participated in the strike, which also included community leaders and the Black Faculty Union, headed by Hare. The late actor, Mel Stewart was a member of the Black Faculty Union, but Hare was the only faculty member invited to become a "quasi-member" of the Central Committee of the Black Student Union, which included a student named Danny Glover, who would go on to become a successful Hollywood actor. One of the speakers almost daily at the noonday rallies of the strike was Ronald Dellums, who was later elected to the U.S. Congress and later Mayor of Oakland, California.

After one San Francisco State College president (the late John Summerskill) was fired and another (Robert Smith) resigned, Smith was replaced by the general semanticist S. I. Hayakawa (who would later become a U.S. Senator). Hayakawa used a hard-line strategy to put down the five-month strike, declaring “martial law” and arresting a crowd of five hundred and fifty-seven rallying professors and students (the overwhelming majority of them white). Weeks later, on February 28, 1969, Hayakawa dismissed Dr. Nathan Hare as chairman of the newly formed black studies department, the first in the United States,“to become effective June 1, 1969.” Hare stayed on until June at the request of the Black Student Union and remained for many more months in an unofficial capacity of “Chairman in Exile.”

Ten years earlier, in 1959, while doing graduate study in Northwestern University's McGill School of Journalism, Hare had been a parttime clerical assistant to the editor of the Journal of Asian Studies then being edited by Roger F. Hacket, a white history professor at Northwestern University, where Hare developed a dream of someday editing a “Journal of Negro Studies” ("Negro" was the word still in fashion for blacks in 1959). In 1968, during a break in a television panel including Nathan Glazer, co-author of The Lonely Crowd, Glazer wrote a note to Hare on a white index card saying "Needed: a Black Scholar journal." Before starting The Black Scholar: A Journal of Black Studies and Research, Hare had written and published articles in magazines and periodicals that included: Ebony, Negro Digest, Black World, Phylon Review, Social Forces, Social Education, Newsweek, and The Times.

Months after his firing from black studies at San Francisco State, Hare teamed with a black faculty member of the college's English Department, Robert Chrisman, and Allen Ross (an independent white intellectual who had immmigrated from Russia and owned the Graphic Arts of Marin printing company located across the highway from the Martin Luther King Elementary School just outside of Sausalito) and founded The Black Scholar in November of 1969. The three of them had met after Nathan and Robert (both recently severed from San Francisco State) sought comfort as drinking buddies at a bar frequented by San Francisco State faculty members in nearby Stonestown. Meanwhile, Robert's second wife was working parttime for Allen Ross and in time the men met and started talking about revolutionary movements and the idea of a black scholar journal over a period of several months before they agreed to chip in three hundred dollars apiece to launch it in a momentarily rent-free room of the Graphic Arts building, where Allen would come in after work and set type into the night.

The first issue was an attention-getter because of the complimentary cover design by his cover designer. Another bit of luck was Nathan's invitation to the First Pan African Cultural Festival held in Algiers, from which he brought back articles from leading African intellectuals as well as his former student at Howard University, Stokely Carmichael, and recently exiled Black Panther leader, Eldridge Cleaver. Nathan also wrote the lead article to "set the tone" of the journal, "Algiers 1969: The First Pan African Cultural Festival," covering the politics and happenings at the Festival. The article was reprinted in Abraham Chapman's "New Black Voices" (a paperback Mentor Book from New American Library) and featured on the cover along with Eldridge Cleaver, John Oliver Killens, Ernest J. Gaines, Robert Hayden, Malcolm X, Chester Himes, Imamu Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Margaret Walker, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison and Ishmael Reed.

Through friends and contacts of Nathan's wife, Julia Hare, who was then Public Information Director of the Western Regional office of the National Committee against Discrimination in Housing, headed by Aileen Hernandez, the first black president of NOW (National Organization of Women, The Black Scholar was featured in Newsweek -- "From the Ebony Tower" -- and The New York Times would soon call it “the most important journal devoted to black issues since ‘The Crisis.'”

After leaving The Black Scholar in 1975, in a dispute over the direction of the journal, and obtaining a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology, San Francisco (his first was in sociology from the University of Chicago), Nathan Hare entered the private practice of psychotherapy, with offices in San Francisco and Oakland. He then focused on forming a movement for “A Better Black Family” (the title of a popular speaking out editorial he wrote for the February 1976 issue of Ebony magazine) shortly after completing a dissertation on “Black Male/Female Relations” at the California School of Professional Psychology.

By 1979, in collaboration with his wife (Dr. Julia Hare, later the author of How to Find and Keep a BMW (Black Man Working) and whose comments at the State of the Black Race in 2008 went viral and quickly surpassed one million hits), Nathan Hare formed The Black Think Tank, which published the periodical, “Black Male/Female Relationships” for several years.

Hare remains in the full-time practice of psychology and directing the Black Think Tank. In 1985, the Black Think Tank disseminated a small book written by him and his wife ("Bringing the Black Boy to Manhood"), which issued the call and was the catalyst for the rites of passage movement for African-American boys that emerged in the mid-1980s as Nathan and Julia Hare lectured and spread the idea of the rites of passage for black boys throughout the United States.


In addition to dozens of articles in a number of scholarly journals and popular magazines, from The Black Scholar and Ebony to Newsweek, Saturday Review and The Times, Nathan Hare is the author of several books:

  • The Black Anglo Saxons. New York: Marzani and Munsell, 1965; New York: Collier-Macmillan, 1970; Chicago: Third World Press edition, Chicago, 1990)0-88378-130-1.

Books in collaboration with his wife, Julia Hare (the former radio talk show host and television guest, who also is a graduate of Langston University) have been published and widely distributed by The Black Think Tank, headquartered in San Francisco. They include:

  • The Endangered Black Family, San Francisco: The Black Think Tank, 1984, ISBN 0-9613086-0-5.
  • Bringing the Black Boy to Manhood: the Passage, San Francisco: The Black Think Tank, 1985, ISBN 0-9613086-1-3.
  • Crisis in Black Sexual Politics, San Francisco: The Black Think Tank, 1989, ISBN 0-9613086-2-1.
  • Fire on Mount Zion: An Autobiography of the Tulsa Race Riot, as told by Mabel B. Little. Langston: The Melvin B. Tolson Black Heritage Center, Langston University, 1990, ISBN 0-9613086-1-4
  • The Miseducation of the Black Child: The Hare Plan to Educate Every Black Man, Woman and Child, San Francisco: The Black Think Tank, 1991, ISBN 0-9613086-4-8.
  • The Black Agenda, San Francisco: The Black Think Tank, 2002, ISBN 0-9613086-9-9.

While publisher of The Black Scholar from 1969–75, Nathan Hare co-edied two books with Robert Chrisman:


  • William M. Banks, Black Intellectuals (Foreword by John Hope Franklin), New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1996, pp. 163, 174, 184, 216, 171. ISBN 0-393-03989-7; ISBN 0-393-31674-pbk.
  • Richard Barksdale and Keneth Kinnamon (eds), Black Writers of America: A Comprehensive Anthology, New York: Macmillan, 1972, pp. 836–841 .ISBN 0-02-306080-8.
  • W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds,Encyclopedia of Black America, New York: Plenum, McGraw Hill, 1981, pp. 747, 803. ISBN 0-306-80221-X.
  • Sharon Malinowski, (ed), Black Writers, Detroit, Washington, D.C., London: Gale Research Inc., 1994, pp. 280–281. ISBN 0-8103-7788-8.
  • Maulana Karenga, Introduction to Black Studies. Los Angeles: The University of Sankore Press, 1993,passim. ISBN 0-943412-16-1.
  • Fabio Rojas, From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007, pp. 1, 30, 71-72, 85. ISBN 13:978-0-8018-8619-5; 10:0-8018-8619-8.
  • Nathaniel Norment, Jr, (ed),The African American Studies Reader, Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2001. pp. vii-xlii; 13-21. ISBN 0-89089-640-2.
  • James E. Blackwell and Morris Janowitz, (eds), Black Sociologists: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1974, pp. xvi, 202 218, 253-267, 280, 322, 355. ISBN 0-226-05565-5.
  • Ishmael Reed, MultiAmerica: Essays on Cultural Wars and Cultural Peace. New York: Viking Penguin, 1997, pp. 328–336.ISBN 0-670-86753-5.
  • Talmadge Anderson, Introduction to African American Studies, Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 1993, pp. 16, 17, 37, 38, 39, 41-44, 45, 120, 126, 133. ISBN 0-7872-3268-8.

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