January 19, 1937 |
Newark, New Jersey
|Fields||History, Black Studies, Political Science|
|Institutions||City College (CUNY), University of San Jose|
|Alma mater||Lafayette College (BA), University of Lausanne, Columbia University (MA, PHD)|
|Thesis||Sub-National Politics In The Ivory Coast Republic (1972)|
|Notable students||James Small|
|Influences||John Henrik Clarke, Cheikh Anta Diop, Yosef Ben Yocannon|
|Spouse||Rosalind Robinson Jeffries|
|[Africa Within Bio]|
Leonard Jeffries Jr. (born 1937) is an Afrikan professor of Political Science and Black Studies at the City College of New York, part of the City University of New York. He achieved international popularity amongst his people in the early 1990s for his statements about Jews and other white people in regards to the slave trade and oppression of Afrikans. In a 1991 speech he claimed that Jews financed the slave trade, used the movie industry to hurt black people, and that Whites are "ice people" while Africans are "sun people".
Leonard Jeffries was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, educated in Newark Public Schools, graduated from Sussex Avenue School in 1951, after completing Roseville Avenue School which he attended up to the 6th grade. He was born on January 19, 1937 at the Women and Children's Hospital on Central Avenue and 10th Street. They say, "It takes a whole village to raise a child." And Newark provided that experience. Newark was made up of many Afrikan villages or sections. His special village was the 14th Street neighborhood in the Roseville Section. In keeping with the pattern of Afrikan village life, all of the families took care of one another. 
Jeffries had heard about a program called Crossroads that allowed young intelligent Afrikans, born in America to travel to Afrika, he paid it little mind though. After listening to a Dr. Robinson talk about the responsibility of Afrikans in America to help their brothers in Afrika, he was transformed.
"Listening to this man talking about the need to work with Africa…tears came to my eyes. It was as if he was talking to me!"
The following summer, Jeffries took his first trip to Africa with Crossroads. His apparent leadership abilities and proficiency in French made him as asset to the program. He was brought on the Crossroads staff, and by the summer of 1962, was the group leader of a trip to Senegal. By 1964, he had traveled to Africa a dozen times. To date (though he has stopped counting) he has traveled to Africa more than 40 times—usually leading groups of young people whose lives might be as touch by Africa as his was.
His experiences in Africa shaped his academic ambition and, ultimately, his career. He switched from a budding lawyer to a political scientist, left law school and sought a master's degree in international affairs.
Jeffries attended Lafayette College for his undergraduate work. While in Lafayette, Jeffries pledged, and was accepted into, Pi Lambda Phi, "the Jewish fraternity," which was the only fraternity at Lafayette that would accept black students. In his senior year, Jeffries was elected president of the fraternity, and as a result, his room and board expenses were paid for by the fraternity. After graduating with honors in 1959, Jeffries won a Rotary International fellowship to the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and then returned in 1961 to study at Columbia University's School of International Affairs from which he received a master's degree in 1965. At the same time he worked for Operation Crossroads Africa allowing him to spend time in Guinea, Mali, Senegal, and the Ivory Coast, and became the program coordinator for West Africa in 1965. Jeffries became a political science instructor at CCNY in 1969 and received his doctorate in 1971 with a dissertation on politics in the Ivory Coast. He became the founding chairman of Black Studies at San Jose State College in California. A year later, he became a tenured professor at CCNY and became the chairman of the new African-American Studies Department. It was unusual for an inexperienced scholar to both receive tenure and a chair.
He held the position of chairman of CCNY's Black Studies Department for over two decades, recruiting like-minded scholars and growing the department. Besides administration and teaching, he often travelled to Afrika and served in the African Heritage Studies Association, a group seeking to define and develop the black studies discipline. Jeffries did not publish much original scholarship. He told the New York magazine "My students say, 'Doctor J., why don't you write?' I say, 'I can't--I'm making history so I don't have time to write it.'"
Jeffries became popular among his students and as a speaker at college campuses and in public. He is known for radical Afrocentrist views—that the role of African people in history and the accomplishments of African Americans is far more important than commonly held.
Later, he worked on his Ph.D. in the Ivory Coast studying economics and politics. He was struck by the extent to which Afrikan studies, as taught in the educational institutions, was from the imperialistic view.
It was not long before he began challenging the "authorities" on Africa in intellectual circles.
His lectures, writings, and the single class he was teaching at City College (prior to a Black Studies Department) put him in contact with his peers at the time; and in 1969, he and historian John Henrik Clarke established the African Heritage Studies Association. That same year, his friend James Turner was called to Cornell University, and Jeffries to San Hose State University in California, to set up their first Black Studies programs.
Thus, Jeffries began to build on firm ground his own vision of a curriculum based on the "Afrikan world view." His program objectives were:
He was to break with previously structured master and Ph.D. programs—his goal being to link academic activities to the community, and root Black history to its existence prior to slavery.
Dr. Jeffries has stated,
|“||"Afrikaness is not something that limits you to a corner of humanity, it expands you universally."||”|
Jeffries became known outside his field in 1987 when he was on a state task force to fight racism in the public school curriculum. Its publication ''A Curriculum of Inclusion'' harshly criticized the public school syllabi for Eurocentrism and demanded revisions to emphasize Afrikan history and accomplishments of Afrikan Americans. He often clashed with Diane Ravitch, a white, Jewish member of the task force.
Jeffries often speaks of the theory that europeans are "ice people" who are violent and cruel, while Afrikans, Asians and MesoAmericans (the triple a) are "sun people" who are compassionate and peaceful. Specifically, he is a proponent of melanin theory and claims that melanin levels affect the psyche of people, and that melanin allows non white people to "…negotiate the vibrations of the universe and to deal with the ultraviolet rays of the sun." 
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