Last modified on 15 August 2014, at 14:46

Leonard Jeffries

Dr. Leonard Jeffries
Jeffries BLST101.jpg
Holding up a Gall–Peters projection map, a map showing the areas of the continents in proper proportion.
Born (1937-01-19) January 19, 1937 (age 77)
Newark, New Jersey[1]
Occupation Professor of Black Studies
Spouse(s) Rosalind Robinson Jeffries, art historian
Parents Leonard Jeffries (father), Leola Smith-Jeffries (mother)

Leonard Jeffries Jr. (born 1937) is an African-American political scientist, historian, educator, master-teacher/administrator and Pan-Africanist. He was chairman of the Department of Black Studies and professor of Black Studies at the City College of New York, part of the City University of New York.

He was born and raised in Newark, NJ where as a young man, he first developed his leadership skills and Pan-African consciousness. After receiving an excellent formal and informal education at outstanding universities, in America and Europe, he has become a leading voice in the African-centered education movement. He is regarded as a foremost authority on Africa, having traveled to the continent, Latin America and the Caribbean more than 100 times on various missions and projects. He speaks fluent French and has taken courses in Portuguese and Russian.

He has recently been appointed the International Executive Director of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (O.A.A.U.), founded in 1964 by El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X). Dr. Jeffries and his colleagues plan to build on the vision of Malcolm X and expand the legacy of Pan-Africanism for the 21st century. He is currently the International President of the World African Diaspora Union (WADU). He is also a founding director and a former Vice-President and President of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC). In 1986, at the ASCAC Conference in New York, Dr. Jeffries proposed that a pilgrimage and conference be held in the Nile Valley. In 1987, 1000 Black men, women and children, from the United States, attended this historical event. During the Black Studies explosion in 1969, Dr. Jeffries assisted Dr. John Henrik Clarke establish the African-centered organization the African Heritage Studies Association (AHSA) and later became its vice-president and national president. In 1975-76, he joined other scholars as the founding director of the National Council for Black Studies (NCBS), which coordinated the activities of hundreds of Black Studies Programs and Department throughout the United States.

Academic careerEdit

Jeffries attended Lafayette College for his undergraduate work. While in Lafayette, Jeffries pledged, and was accepted into, Pi Lambda Phi, "the Jewish fraternity,"[1] which was the only fraternity at Lafayette that would accept black students. In his senior year, Jeffries was elected president of the fraternity. After graduating with honors in 1959, Jeffries won a Rotary International fellowship to the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and then returned in 1960 to go to law school at New York University, but made a change in career and in 1961 went to study at Columbia University's School of International Affairs from which he received a master's degree in 1963.

At the same time Jeffries worked for Operation Crossroads Africa, allowing him to spend time in Guinea, Mali, Senegal, and the Ivory Coast. He became the program coordinator for West Africa in 1964. Jeffries became a political science instructor at CCNY in 1969 and received his doctorate from Columbia in 1971 with a dissertation on politics in the Ivory Coast.

In the late 1960’s, Dr. Jeffries was among the handful of people asked to take on the extraordinary task of developing the first Black Studies programs and departments in the country. In 1969, he was appointed by San Jose State College in California, to set up one of the earliest degree-granting Black Studies Department. Prof. Jeffries began to build on firm ground, his own vision of a curriculum based on the "African world focus." In 1972, Dr. Leonard Jeffries was recruited by City College of New York to organize their Black Studies Department. Over the next three decades, Dr. Jeffries and his colleagues developed the most comprehensive Black Studies Department in the country. The program objectives were first and foremost academic excellence, community-orientation and overseas outreach to Africa, the Caribbean and Brazil. During his tenure, the department sponsored/hosted/organized 25 major national and international conferences and seminars.

He held the position of chairman of CCNY's Black Studies Department for over two decades, recruiting scholars and growing the department. Besides administration and teaching, he often traveled to Africa and served in the African Heritage Studies Association, a group seeking to define and develop the black studies discipline.[1][2][3]

Jeffries became popular nationally among students and as a speaker at college campuses and in public.[1]

Removal as chairman and legal battles (1990s)Edit

In 1992, Jeffries first got his term shortened from three years to one, and was then removed as chairman from the department of African-American studies, but was allowed to stay as a professor. Jeffries sued the school and in August 1993 a federal jury found that his First Amendment rights had been violated. He was restored as chairman and awarded $400,000 in damages (later reduced to $360,000).[4][5][6]

The school appealed, but the federal appeals court upheld the verdict while removing the damages. The CUNY Institute for Research on the Diaspora in the Americas and Caribbean was created to do black research independent of Jeffries' department. It was headed by Edmund W. Gordon, who had led the Black Studies Department before Jeffries was reinstated. In November 1994 the Supreme Court told the appeals court to reconsider after a related Supreme Court decision.[7]

The appeals court reversed its decision in April 1995,[8] and in June the same year Prof. Moyibi Amodo was elected to succeed Jeffries as department chairman. Jeffries remains a professor at CCNY.[1][9][10][11]

Academic freedom debateEdit

The Jeffries case led to debate about tenure, academic freedom and free speech.[4][11][12] He was sometimes compared to Michael Levin, a Jewish CUNY professor who outside of the classroom claimed that black people are on average, genetically less intelligent, and had recently won against the school in court.[9][13]

One interpretation of the Jeffries case is that while a university cannot fire a professor for opinions and speech, they have more flexibility with a position like department chair.

Recent historyEdit

During the past 50 years, Dr. Jeffries life has truly been an excellent example of commitment to the current theme of the African Union (AU) which is Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance. His education, research and publication attest to his growth and development as a Pan-African bridge builder.

Dr. Jeffries and his wife, Dr. Rosalind Jeffries did research for the first edition of Roots, written by Alex Haley. Dr. Jeffries was installed as Division Chief in Elmina and in Agogo, Ghana.

In 1999, he was chosen, by the City Council of Newark, NJ, as a historical consultant on West Africa to assist a Newark program on the City of Newark’s site visit to the cities of Kumasi and Cape Coast, Ghana. To date, he has traveled to Africa more than 100 times—usually leading groups of young people whose lives might be as touch by Africa as his was.

He has been a professor of African Studies, consultant and speaker at major universities throughout the United States, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Egypt, Brazil, Switzerland, France and throughout the Caribbean. He has led dozens of "pilgrimages" to Africa and has also introduced countless teachers, students, ministers, politicians and writers to the continent of Africa.


  1. ^ a b c d e Contemporary Black Biography. The Gale Group. 2006. Retrieved 2009-05-13. 
  2. ^ Foerstel, Herbert N. (1997). "Jefferies, Leonard". Free expression and censorship in America: an encyclopedia. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 101–102, 132. ISBN 978-0-313-29231-6. LCCN 9642157 Check |lccn= value (help). OCLC 35317918. Retrieved May 15, 2009. 
  3. ^ New York, September 2, 1991, pp. 33-37; May 24, 1993, pp. 10-11.
  4. ^ a b "Academic Freedom". West's Encyclopedia of American Law. The Gale Group. 1998. Retrieved May 15, 2009. 
  5. ^ Newman, Maria (May 12, 1993). "CUNY Violated Speech Rights Of Department Chief, Jury Says". New York Times. pp. A1. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  6. ^ Bernstein, Richard (August 5, 1993). "Judge Reinstates Jeffries as Head Of Black Studies for City College". New York Times. pp. A1. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  7. ^ Waters v. Churchill (114 S.Ct. 1878 [1994]), 511 U.S. 661 (1994)
  8. ^ Jeffries v. Harleston, 52 F.3d 9 [2nd Cir. 1995]
  9. ^ a b Abel, Richard L. (1999). Speaking Respect, Respecting Speech. University of Chicago Press. pp. 101–102. ISBN 0-226-00057-5. Retrieved 2009-05-13. 
  10. ^ David Singer, Ruth R. Seldin, ed. (1996). American Jewish Year Book 1996. New York: The American Jewish Committee. pp. 120–121. ISBN 0-87495-110-0. Retrieved 2009-05-13. 
  11. ^ a b Finkin, Matthew W. (1996). The case for tenure. Cornell University Press. pp. 190–191. ISBN 0-8014-3316-9. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  12. ^ Spitzer, Robert J. (1994). "Tenure, Speech, and the Jeffries Case: A Functional Analysis". Pace Law Review 15 (111). Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  13. ^ Morrow, Lance (June 24, 2001). "Controversies: The Provocative Professor". TIME. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 

External linksEdit