Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Ranking Black Scholars in the Humanities and Social Sciences

June 15th, 2009 by Ajuan Mance

In 2008, David R. Williams was more frequently cited than any other Black scholar in the social sciences or the humanities. Professor Williams is the Florence and Laura Norman Professor of Public Health and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University.


In academia, the number of times a scholar’s publications are cited by other researchers is sometimes used as a measure of the quality and significance of professor’s work, as well as his or her overall standing within the field.

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE) has published its annual list of Black scholars in the humanities and social sciences, ranked by number of citations.  JBHE includes separate lists for scholars in the humanities and social sciences, largely because of the different roles that scholarly books and articles play in each of these areas. JBHE explains:

Academic journals play a less important role in the humanities in comparison to the natural sciences or even the social sciences. There are not a large number of journals in which humanities issues are routinely debated. Therefore, the number of citations given to a particular scholar in the humanities — even some of the most highly respected novelists, poets, and playwrights — are likely to be far below the number of citations assigned to a scientist who publishes just one important paper in a scientific journal.

Thus, when analyzing the number of citations that link to a particular scholar, it is also important to note that the scholarly book that serves as the primary medium for sharing ideas in the humanities (although that particular medium plays a much less significant role in the sciences and social sciences).

For the year 2008, the ten most frequently cited Black scholars in the humanities were:

  1. Paul Gilroy (156 citations)
  2. Toni Morrison (110 citations)
  3. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (88 citations)
  4. bell hooks (78 citations)
  5. K. Anthony Appiah (65 citations)
  6. Paule Marshall (53 citations)
  7. Danielle Allen (50 citations)
  8. Alice Walker (42 citations)
  9. Cornell West (42 citations)
  10. Orlando Patterson (41 citations)

If any of these names are unfamiliar, stay tuned. In the coming weeks, I’ll be featuring several scholars from both the humanities and social sciences lists in The Quotable Black Scholar series.

For the year 2008, the ten most frequently cited Black scholars in the social sciences were:

  1. David R. Williams (398 citations)
  2. William Julius Wilson (322 citations)
  3. Claude M. Steele (304 citations)
  4. Elijah Anderson (245 citations)
  5. Vonnie McLoyd (200 citations)
  6. Paul Gilroy (141 citations)
  7. Lawrence Bobo (140 citations)
  8. Kimberle Crenshaw (135 citations)
  9. Caroline M. Hoxby (109 citations)
  10. Toni Morrison (88 citations)

The fact that a handful of Black scholars appear on both lists is a reflection of the interdisciplinary nature of Black studies and related fields.

In addition to Paul Gilroy and Toni Morrison, both of whom appear in the top ten on both the humanities and the social sciences rankings, the following Black scholars are also appear on both the humanities and social sciences lists:

  • Orlando Patterson (41 humanities, 50 social sciences)
  • Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (88 humanities, 29 social sciences)
  • K. Anthony Appiah (65 humanities, 76 social sciences)
  • William Julius Wilson (11 humanities, 322 social sciences)
  • John Hope Franklin (16 humanities, 12 social sciences)
  • Michael Eric Dyson (25 humanities, 18 social sciences)
  • Manning Marable (10 humanities, 23 social sciences)
  • David R. Williams (10 humanities, 398 social sciences)

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in Academia, African Americans, Current Events, Higher Education

2 Responses

  1. Yafa Jones

    cool site!
    check out mine-
    ‘blackspace and milan’.

  2. Twin XL

    That is a great list of names to start reading from. I am going to take a few now and look up what they’ve written. I’m very excited!