William Leo Hansberry


William Leo Hansberry

William Leo Hansberry (February 25, 1894—November 3, 1965) was a prominent African American scholar and lecturer. His was the older brother of real estate broker Carl Augustus Hansberry, uncle of award-winning playwright Lorraine Hansberry and great-uncle of actress Taye Hansberry.

Biography

Hansberry was born on February 25, 1894 in Gloster, Amite County, Mississippi. [World War I Draft Registration Card, Roll #1685072] He was the son of Elden Hayes and Pauline (Bailey) Hansberry. [http://www.africawithin.com/hansberry/hansberry_profile.htm Africawithin.com Biography] His father taught history at Alcorn A&M in Lorman, Mississippi, but died when the younger Hansberry was only three years old. [http://www.africawithin.com/hansberry/hansberry_profile.htm Africawithin.com Biography] He and his younger brother, Carl Augustus Hansberry, where raised by their stepfather, Elijah Washington. [1910 U.S. Census, Amite County, Mississippi, household of Elijah Washington]

In 1915, he attended Atlanta University, where he was exposed to a new volume of essays on race (published by the university's Sociology Department), which served as a major influence on him. [http://www.africawithin.com/hansberry/hansberry_profile.htm Africawithin.com Biography] Another big influence was the book, "The Negro" by W.E.B. DuBois. After, he purchased a copy of the book, he rushed to the school's library to refer to the references cited in the volume. To his dismay, Hansberry discovered Atlanta University's reference library to be sorely lacking. As a result, he left Atlanta University two weeks into his sophomore year to transfer to the best-equipped university he could find that would admit blacks. As a result, he began studies at Harvard University in February 1917. [http://www.africawithin.com/hansberry/hansberry_profile.htm Africawithin.com Biography] where he completed his undergraduate studies in 1921. [ [http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/hansberry.html William Leo Hansberry: Pioneer Africanist Scholar (1894-1965) by Runoko Rashidi] ]

Upon his graduation from Harvard, Hansberry taught for a year at Straight College (now Dillard University) in New Orleans. In September 1922, Hansberry joined the faculty of Howard University where he started the African Civilization Section of the History Department. [ [http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/hansberry.html William Leo Hansberry: Pioneer Africanist Scholar (1894-1965) by Runoko Rashidi] ]

Hansberry received his Masters from Harvard in 1932. Additional post-graduate work was done at the University of Chicago, Oxford University and Cairo University. [ [http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/hansberry_william_leo/index.html Mississippi Writer's Page] ] [ [http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/hansberry.html William Leo Hansberry: Pioneer Africanist Scholar (1894-1965) by Runoko Rashidi] ]

As a professor at Howard, Hansberry taught courses on African civilizations and cultures. [ [http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/hansberry.html William Leo Hansberry: Pioneer Africanist Scholar (1894-1965) by Runoko Rashidi] ] Among his students was the future Ghanaian revolutionary, Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah would later become the first prime minister and president of Ghana. Although his courses were very popular with students, two distinguished faculty members accused Hansberry of teaching subject matter without adequate research to support it. With the program and his job on the line, Hansberry presented the Board of Trustees with detailed documentation of his research. While he managed to save the African studies program, Hansberry's research funding was cut off and he would not receive tenure until 1938. [http://www.africawithin.com/hansberry/hansberry_profile.htm Africawithin.com Biography]

Despite the extensive research he conducted over his lifetime, Hansberry was very reluctant to have his work published. James Williams, one of his former students and later at Senior Professor of African History at Howard, recalled in 1972 that when his students urged publication of his work, Hansberry would smile, but always firmly reply, "I am not ready yet." [ [http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/hansberry2.html William Leo Hansberry, Teacher: As Seen by a Former Student by Chancellor James Williams, originally published in A Tribute to the Memory of Professor William Leo Hansberry, 1972, pp. 17-18] ] Hansberry retired from Howard in June 1959. [ [http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/hansberry.html William Leo Hansberry: Pioneer Africanist Scholar (1894-1965) by Runoko Rashidi] ]

He married Myrtle Kelso (September 24, 1908—May 1980) [Social Security Death Index] of Meridian, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, [Passenger list of S.S. Aquitania, arriving in New York City on September 13, 1938. She's listed as Myrtle Kelso Hansberry with William Leo Hansberry, who is born on the same date and place as his World War I draft registration card.] in 1937 [http://www.africawithin.com/hansberry/hansberry_profile.htm Africawithin.com Biography] daughter of Wiley and Mamie Kelso. [1910 U.S. Census, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, household of Wiley Kelso] Two children were born to this union:

* Gail Adelle Hansberry [http://www.africawithin.com/hansberry/hansberry_profile.htm Africawithin.com Biography]
* Myrtle Kay Hansberry [http://www.africawithin.com/hansberry/hansberry_profile.htm Africawithin.com Biography]

While visiting relatives in Chicago, Hansberry died of a cerebral hemorrage on November 3, 1965, [http://www.africawithin.com/hansberry/hansberry_profile.htm Africawithin.com Biography] [ [http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/hansberry_william_leo/index.html Mississippi Writer's Page] ] the same cause of death as his brother.

In 1972, he finally received recognition from the university that had snubbed him when Howard named a lecture hall in his honor. [http://www.africawithin.com/hansberry/hansberry_profile.htm Africawithin.com Biography]

References

External links

* [http://www.africawithin.com/hansberry/hansberry_profile.htm Biographical Profile of William Leo Hansberry] at [http://www.africawithin.com/ Africawithin.com]
* [http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/hansberry.html William Leo Hansberry: Pioneer Africanist Scholar (1894-1965) by Runoko Rashidi] at the [http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/runoko.html The Global African Presence]
* [http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/hansberry2.html William Leo Hansberry, Teacher: As Seen by a Former Student by Chancellor James Williams] and the [http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/runoko.html The Global African Presence] This piece was originally published as part of "A Tribute to the Memory of Professor William Leo Hansberry" (Washington, DC: Howard University Department of History, 1972: pp. 17-18).
* [http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/hansberry_william_leo/index.html Biography] at the [http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/index.html Mississippi Writers Page]


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