Jean Allman, Ph.D., became the inaugural holder of the J.H. Hexter Professorship in the Humanities in Arts & Sciences Feb. 12 in a ceremony held in Holmes Lounge. The professorship was established by a grant from the Danforth Foundation to recognize distinguished faculty members in the humanities.
“The Danforth Foundation’s support over the years has had an immeasurable impact on this University,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “I am very grateful to the leadership within the Foundation who have made our institution the beneficiary of support of this magnitude, touching every aspect of our community.”
Allman’s appointment is in the Department of History, but her work is interdisciplinary in scope and addresses issues of interest to African and African American studies as well as women and gender studies. As an eminent historian of West Africa, her research explores the concepts of national identity, gender and colonialism, fashion and the politics of clothing and the modernity of indigenous belief systems. Central to her work is the study of African contributions to the modern world.
“Like Jack Hexter, Jean Allman has excelled in her field of study and will add a valuable multidisciplinary dimension to the history department,” said Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., executive vice chancellor, dean of Arts & Sciences and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences.
The Danforth family established the Danforth Foundation in 1927. This private, independent foundation has been a major benefactor of the University. Recently, it has concentrated on supporting the St. Louis region with initiatives in the plant and life sciences, neighborhood redevelopment and downtown St. Louis revitalization.
The professorship — one of four established by the Danforth Foundation in 1997 — honors the late Jack Hexter, who spent much of his academic life as a historian at WUSTL. He joined the faculty here in 1957 but left for Yale University in 1964 to become the Charles Stille Professor and create the Yale Center for Parliamentary History.
Hexter returned in 1978 and was named the John M. Olin Professor for the History of Freedom. For the next 22 years, he taught, conducted research and created his most significant achievements — founding the Center for the History of Freedom and publishing a 15-volume treatise, “The Making of Modern Freedom.” In addition, Hexter also published “The Reign of King Pym,” “Reappraisals of History” and “On Historians.”
Widely regarded for his intellectual contributions, Hexter was a member of the Royal Historical Society, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He had four Guggenheim and two Fulbright fellowships to his credit. In addition, Hexter was a trustee of the Danforth Foundation from 1973-78. He died in 1996.
Allman has three books and numerous articles and reviews to her credit. Among the publications she has authored or co-authored are “TONGNAAB: The History of a West African God,” “I Will Not Eat Stone: A Women’s History of Colonial Asante” and “The Quills of the Porcupine: Asante Nationalism in an Emergent Ghana, 1954-1957.” She also has co-edited The Journal of Women’s History as well as two critically received book series, “The Social History of Africa” and “New African Histories.” Her professional contributions include serving as a member of the board of directors for the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora and for the African Studies Association.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in history and a certificate in African studies, Allman earned a graduate certificate in African studies and a doctoral degree in African history.
Prior to joining the University, Allman directed the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 2003-07. She began her academic career at the University of Missouri then moved to the University of Minnesota.