Adelaide McGuinn Cromwell: In Memoriam, 1919-2019


Click here for BU Today's tribute to Dr. Cromwell


This exhibition examines the life and work of Dr. Adelaide M. Cromwell, who passed away on June 8, 2019. A cofounding faculty member of the African Studies Center and founder of the African American Studies program at Boston University, Dr. Cromwell (Hon.'95) was a long-time professor of sociology at Boston University and was renowned for her research on African American elites and black leadership.

Adelaide M. Cromwell was born in Washington, D.C. and went on to graduate from Dunbar High School and Smith College. A pioneer from the very beginning of her career, Dr. Cromwell became the first African American instructor at Hunter College in New York. Then, after completing a PhD in Sociology from Harvard's Radcliffe College in 1946, she became the first African American instructor at her undergraduate alma mater, Smith College.

In 1951, Dr. Cromwell arrived at Boston University as a professor of sociology. At Boston University, she was a leading member of the committee that established Boston University's African Studies Program, of which she served as a core faculty member, program administrator, and research associate for several years. In 1968-1969, she played an instrumental role in the development of the African American Studies courses at Boston University, and founded the master's program in African American Studies, where she served as director, professor, and mentor to the many students she taught.

Dr. Cromwell's sociological research has been recognized by a broad community of educators, administrators, and policymakers. In 1960, she convened the first conference of West African social workers in Ghana, and, that same year, was the first woman and only African American to serve on a five-member committee commissioned to assess the state of higher education in the Belgian Congo. Dr. Cromwell's many appointments include the Executive Council of the American Society of African Culture, the American Negro Leadership Conference in Africa, and the Advisory Council on Voluntary Foreign Aid.

Dr. Cromwell is the author of five books, including Apropos of Africa: Sentiments of American Negro Leaders on Africa from the 1800s to the 1950s, Developing a Black Meritocracy: A History of Black Graduates of the Boston Latin School, An African Victorian Feminist: The Life and Times of Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford, 1868-1960, and The Other Brahmins: Boston's Black Upper Class, 1750-1950. Her most recent book is the highly acclaimed history of her family, Unveiled Voices, Unvarnished Memories: The Cromwell Family in Slavery and Segregation, 1692-1972, published in 2007.

This exhibition is no longer on display.

Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/Boston Globe staff