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Black History Month: Study Abroad

In celebration of Black History Month, the Global Education Office is highlighting and saluting some of the prominent Black Americans who have studied abroad. We will post a new name and bio each week in February 2023. Learn more below about the power of study abroad:

  • February 27: Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  • February 20: Will Mercer Cook
  • February 13: Audre Lorde
  • February 6: James Meredith 

View the 2022 and 2021 honorees online.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. - England

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Gates’s most recent books are Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow and The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song. He has also produced and hosted more than 20 documentary films, most recently The Black Church on PBS and Black Art: In the Absence of Light for HBO. Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy and genetics series, is now in its eighth season on PBS. Video: Professor Wole Soyinka, Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah and Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr are leading academic voices and hugely influential in their fields of expertise. But had they not met at the University of Cambridge 50 years ago, their lives may have looked very different. They reunite, in Cambridge once again, for a fascinating insight into their long-lasting friendship. In a panel discussion moderated by Gillian Tett, they look back over the last 50 years, consider how they have influenced each other, and share reflections on their lived experiences. (Cambridge University)

Will Mercer Cook - Paris

Will Mercer Cook served as the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Niger from 1961 to 1964 and directed U.S. economic, social, and cultural programs, which included the Peace Corps. During the mid-1960s he also became the special envoy to Gambia and Senegal. Cook was born into a distinguished family in Washington, D.C. and spent much time abroad as a child. (His father--eminent composer, conductor and scholar Will Marion Cook-- had studied in Berlin thanks to a fundraiser organized by Frederick Douglass.) In 1925 Mercer earned his B.A. in French language and literature from Amherst College. He did graduate study in French language and literature in Paris, where he met and became acquainted with fellow student Leopold S. Senghor, poet and later president of Senegal for many years. During his career at Atlanta University, Cook received the prestigious Rosenwald Fellowship to conduct research abroad in Paris and the French West Indies. Upon the completion of his foreign relations service, Cook served as chair of the department of romance languages at Howard. He also became a visiting professor at Harvard. In 1969, he co-authored with Stephen Henderson the groundbreaking anthology, The Militant Black Writer in Africa and the United States. (Source:

Audre Lorde - Mexico

Lorde was an outstanding writer, feminist and civil rights activist who gave voice to issues of race, gender, and sexuality. "Zami: A New Spelling of My Name," her autobiography, which she called her biomythography (thereby creating a new genre) describes her year in 1954 at the National University in Mexico. Her time there was invigorating and liberating; she went to escape racist McCarthyism and discovered feminist and lesbian movements and cultures. (Source:


James Meredith - Nigeria

Civil rights activist, writer, and Air Force veteran famous for being the first African American to integrate the University of Mississippi. After graduating, he enrolled at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, where he studied political science and proceeded to fight against white supremacy. (Source: John A. Williams, a Black American journalist, traveled to Nigeria and interviewed Meredith as part of a documentary series for WNET. The video is cued to the interview but the entire video is posted. Photo Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS/AP Copyright 1962.

Where Will You Study Abroad?