Evelynn M. Hammonds

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Evelynn M. Hammonds (born 1953, Atlanta, Georgia) is an American academic, Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of History of Science and African American Studies at Harvard University, and Former Dean of Harvard College.[1] She is also a Black Feminist author, whose writing intersects the concepts of race with the academic fields of science and medicine. She has written articles that examine gender and the epidemic of HIV/AIDS. This intersection is apparent in her article "Toward a Genealogy of Black Female Sexuality: The Problematic of Silence".[2] Hammonds resigned her position as Dean of Harvard College, effective July 1, 2013.


Hammonds was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1953. Her mother was a school teacher and her father was a postal worker. She grew up in the time right after segregation and dealt with the many racial issues of this time throughout her childhood. Hammonds attended public school in the South, and in 1976 earned her first two degrees. She earned a bachelor's degree in physics (1976) from Spelman College. She also earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1976 from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She then went on to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), earning a master's degree in physics in 1980.[1]

She went to work as a software engineer for five years. However, she did not enjoy her work environment and thus returned to academic life. In 1993 Hammonds earned a doctorate degree in the history of science from Harvard University. At that time, MIT also invited Hammonds to teach. While she was there, she was a founding director of MIT's center for the Study of Diversity in Science, Technology, and Medicine.[1] She also helped organize the first national academic conference for black female scholars, Black Women in the Academy: Defending Our Name 1894-1994.

In 2002 she returned to Harvard and joined as a professor in the departments of the History of Science and of African and African American Studies. She received the title of Dean at Harvard College in 2008 and was the 4th black woman to receive tenure within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University.[3] Hammonds was also named senior vice provost for Faculty Development and Diversity. Harvard's announcement of her appointment referred to her role advising the provost and "encourag[ing] the recruitment and advancement of outstanding women and underrepresented minority faculty"[4]

E-mail search scandal at Harvard[edit]

In March 2013, Hammonds and Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean Michael D. Smith announced that they had ordered a search of the email records of Harvard administrators in order to identify whether individuals had leaked information to the media regarding the university's investigation of the 2012 Harvard cheating scandal. In April, Hammonds announced that her earlier statement had not been complete as she had failed to recollect a second email search, this time of the accounts of Allston Burr Resident Deans, academics who live in Harvard's undergraduate housing and advise students. Hammonds did not inform Smith of this second search, violating the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' email privacy policy.[5]

The Harvard Crimson called on Hammonds to resign.[6] Then, on May 28, Hammonds announced that she would resign to lead a new Harvard research program on race and gender in science. Hammonds said that her decision to resign was unrelated to the email search incident.[7] [8]


Hammonds' research focuses on the intersection of science and medicine and human race. Many of her works analyze gender and race in the perspective of science and medicine. She is concerned with how science examines human variation through race. Hammonds mainly studies the time period of the 17th century to present while focusing on history of diseases and African American feminism. Within these broad fields of research she is concerned with the relationship between African American women and AIDS.

In 1997, Hammond's article "Toward a Genealogy of Black Female Sexuality: The Problematic of Silence" was published in Feminist Theory and the Body: A Reader.[2] In this article Hammond focuses on the intersection of black female sexuality and AIDS. She argues that black female sexuality (from the 19th century to present) was formed in exact opposition to that of the white woman’s. Through iconography, she illustrates this concept. She notes that historically many black feminists have failed to develop a concept of black female sexuality. Hammonds then discusses the limitations of black women’s sexuality and how that affects black women with AIDS.

Hammonds believes black women are capable of more than their socially acceptable definition of their own sexuality, but yet they are unable to express it. This is a consequence of black women being unable to define sexuality in their own terms. She dates the earliest records of these definitions in the early 19th century with Sarah Bartmann as the "Hottentot's Venus".[2] This was a black woman who was put on display and seen as vulgar because she had larger anatomical body parts than those of her white counterparts. In more recent years, black woman exemplify the notion of an uncontrolled sexuality. This was largely in part due to the comparison of black women to Victorian white women. Black women were seen as hypersexual. White society thought that black female sexuality undermined the morals and values of their society [2]

During the late 19th early 20th century black women reformers were set on developing a new definition of black female sexuality. This new definition was an image of a super moral black female to align itself with the super moral Victorian women. These black women were set on deconstructing the hypersexual notion of the black female sexuality. Hammonds argues that by silencing the voice of the black female, the reformers oppressed black women without deconstructing the notion of the hyper sexual connotation [2]

Hammonds states that in order for black women to be free from oppression, black women must reclaim their sexuality. The definition of black female sexuality was always defined by an outside group looking in, first by white males and then by white females. Black females must define their own sexuality in order to overcome oppression. She states that this repeated silence has become a notion of "invisibility" to describe black females' lives. Even women with prestige in academia are still under invisibility when they are told what issues they can and cannot lecture about.[2] Hammonds continues to extend the "invisibility" of black women to the field of medicine and science. Black women have been oppressed for so many years that negative stereotypes have been formed about black women and now to black women with AIDS. These stereotypes have created a void between black women with AIDS and society. The public continues to hold black women up to the stereotype of hypersexual and black women with AIDS are forced to deal with this oppression.[2]


Hammonds has written and published many books, book chapters and reviews. Her most recent publications include: "Racial Categories in Medical Practice: How Useful Are They?," "Straw men and their followers: The return of biological race," "The Use of Race Variables in Genetic Studies of Complex Traits and the Goal of Reducing Health Disparities: A Transdisciplinary Perspective," and "Conversation on Feminist Science Studies." [9]


  1. ^ a b c Harvard Faculty Bio, http://www.faculty.harvard.edu/about-office/history-office/evelynn-m-hammonds-dean-harvard-college
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Price, Janet; Shildrick, Margrit (1997). Feminist Theory and the Body: A Reader. New York: Taylor & Francis. pp. 249–59. ISBN 0415925665. 
  3. ^ The History Makers, http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/evelynn-m-hammonds-40, interviewed December 3, 2004
  4. ^ "Evelynn Hammonds named senior vice provost for Faculty Development and Diversity". Harvard Gazette. July 21, 2005. Retrieved January 23, 2015. 
  5. ^ Fandos, Nicholas (2 April 2013). "Revelation of Second Email Search Contradicts Administrators' Previous Statement". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  6. ^ "To Rebuild Trust, Hammonds Must Resign". The Harvard Crimson. 4 April 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  7. ^ Perez-Pena, Richard (28 May 2013). "Harvard Dean Who Handled E-Mail Searches to Step Down". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Staff, Globe (28 May 2013). "Evelynn Hammonds to step down as Harvard College dean". Boston Globe. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  9. ^ CV of Evelyn M. Hammonds, http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~hsdept/bios/documents/EHCVcurrent-2014_000.pdf

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