Sad News: Norman E. Hodges

Dear all,

I am writing with sad news. Professor Emeritus Norman E. Hodges, PhD, passed away on Monday, July 10. He was predeceased by his wife Nzilani Menze in 1999 and will be deeply missed by his friends, students, and colleagues.

Professor Hodges was the first tenured Black professor in the History Department and Africana Studies (previously called Black Studies). He taught courses on African American, African, and Caribbean history from 1969 until his retirement in 1998. His commitment to his students was clear from the warm and supportive stories he told about them and their accomplishments. Teaching at Vassar at the inception of the Africana Studies program (which he directed twice), Professor Hodges had an indelible, positive mark on Vassar, its students, and the community. He was tireless in his advocacy and support for Black students and the full integration of Africana Studies into the curriculum. He traveled often to Africa for study and conferences, and he spoke out against Apartheid in South Africa. Professor Hodges was called upon by President Carter to serve on a panel on U.S. Relations and Africa, specifically contributing his views on future American policy toward what was then Rhodesia. His pathbreaking research focused in part on what he described as “the relentless spread of pernicious neo-colonialism throughout many areas of the African continent.” Professor Hodges also called for “greater understanding of the common experience of oppression, exploitation, and sufferance which binds all blacks in Africa and in the diaspora together.” Following his retirement, the Norman Hodges Lecture Fund was established to support lectures on Race and American Law.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision upending decades of affirmative action in college admission and with the knowledge that state governments have banned the teaching of critical race theory and are constraining programs to expand diversity, inclusion, and equity—Professor Hodges’s words are at once fifty years old and remarkably relevant today. His passing is a profound loss, and his work is as important as it ever was.

In sorrow,

Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Vassar College
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604