Frank M. Snowden Jr.

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Frank M. Snowden Jr.
BornJuly 17, 1911
DiedFebruary 18, 2007 (2007-02-19) (aged 95)
Alma materBoston Latin School
Harvard University
OccupationProfessor emeritus
Specialist lecturer
Cultural attaché
Spouse(s)Elaine Hill Snowden (wife)

Frank M. Snowden Jr. (July 17, 1911 – February 18, 2007), was an American professor emeritus of classics at Howard University, best known for his study of blacks in classical antiquity.

Early life and education[edit]

Snowden was born in rural York County, Virginia, on July 17, 1911. His father was a civilian employee of the U.S. Department of the Army, who later worked as a businessman. Snowden graduated from Boston Latin School and earned undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. He taught classics at Howard University, arriving there is 1940 after teaching at Atlanta University. Among his colleagues at Atlanta was the eminent scholar W. E. B. DuBois. He remained at Howard as professor and chair of the Classics Department, serving also as dean of the College of Liberal Arts, until his retirement in 1976; in retirement, he taught at Howard as professor emeritus; he also taught at Vassar College, and Mary Washington College. He was dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Howard University, and was the first honoree in the Howard University Libraries' "Excellence at Howard" program.

Snowden's many books include Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience (1970), which received the Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit of the American Philological Association, The Image of the Black in Western Art I: From the Pharaohs to the Fall of the Roman Empire, which he co-authored (1976), and Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks (1983).


Snowden was largely known for his studies of black people in the ancient world. He documented that in ancient Rome and Greece racial prejudice was not an issue. Much of this, according to Snowden, is because most of the blacks they encountered were not slaves. Most slaves in the Roman Empire were white. Most of the blacks they met were warriors, statesmen, and mercenaries. Therefore, blacks were not subjected to the racism of modern civilization. He studied ancient art and literature, and he found evidence that blacks were able to co-exist with the Greeks and Romans.

Snowden served as a member of the American delegation to UNESCO in Paris, France, as a cultural attaché to the United States Embassy in Rome, Italy in the Eisenhower administration, and as a specialist lecturer for the U.S. State Department.

Later life and death[edit]

In 2003, Snowden was honored at the White House as a recipient of the National Humanities Medal. He died of congestive heart failure in Washington, D.C., on February 18, 2007.

Personal life[edit]

Snowden lived in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Elaine Hill Snowden, whom he was married to from 1935, until her death in 2005. He was fluent in Latin, Greek, German, French and Italian. His son, Frank M. Snowden III, is a professor of twentieth century Italian history at Yale University.


  • Frank M. Snowden Jr. (1970). Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press. ISBN 0674076265.
  • Frank M. Snowden Jr. (1983). Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674063813.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]