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Thu, 11.27.1919

Adelaide Cromwell, Professor and Activist born

Adelaide Cromwell

*Adelaide Cromwell was born on this date in 1919. She was a Black sociologist, activist, and professor emeritus. 

Adelaide McGuinn Cromwell was born in Washington, D.C. Her grandfather, John Wesley Cromwell, was a well-known activist and educator, and her father, John Wesley Cromwell Jr., was the city's first black certified public accountant. Her aunt, Otelia Cromwell, was the first black graduate of Smith College. Her cousin, Edward Brooke, was a Senator of Massachusetts and the first popularly elected Black State Attorney General.

Cromwell graduated from Dunbar High School in 1936. She received an A.B. degree in sociology from Smith College in 1940 and an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1941. She earned a certificate in social casework from Bryn Mawr College and a Ph.D. in sociology from Radcliffe College in 1946. After graduating from Radcliffe, Cromwell taught sociology at Hunter College, where she was the first African American instructor. She again broke the color line when she taught at Smith College in the late 1940s. In 1951, she joined the faculty at Boston University, teaching sociology until 1985.

In 1959, Cromwell co-founded the university's African Studies Center. From 1969 to 1985, she directed the African American Studies program. 1960, Cromwell traveled to Ghana to convene the first West African social workers conference. She also served on a committee commissioned by the American Methodist Church to evaluate the state of higher education in the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). She was appointed in 1974 as Library Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the first African American in this position.

In 1983, she convened a conference of policymakers and scholars at the University of Liberia. Cromwell served on the executive council of the American Society of African Culture, the now-defunct American Negro Leadership Conference in Africa, and the United States Agency for International Development's Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid (ACVFA). She was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the African Studies Association, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), and the American Sociological Association.

She was president of the Heritage Guild, which she co-founded in 1975 to document, preserve, and raise awareness of Boston's black history. At that time, few Bostonians realized the historical significance of sites such as the African Meeting House on Beacon Hill or knew that Boston's West End had once been a major center of the abolitionist movement. The Heritage Guild has called the public's attention to historical sites and the achievements of people such as Butler R. Wilson, founder of the Boston NAACP.

Cromwell has written several books on black history, including a study of Boston's black upper class, The Other Brahmins.  She was honored by the Massachusetts Historical Commission in 2015 for her contributions. She has written several books on black history, including a groundbreaking study of Boston's black upper class and a biography of Adelaide Casely-Hayford. Adelaide Cromwell died on June 8, 2019, at 99.

To Become a Professor.
To Become a College Administrator

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