First Black Professor Of Philosophy At University Of Edinburgh

By James T. Curry

Today, I became the first Black professor of philosophy to sign the professorial roll at the University of Edinburgh. Philosophy has been taught at the University of Edinburgh since 1581. Since the university’s founding, there has never been a Black philosopher to hold a professorial chair. My chair in Africana philosophy and Black Male Studies is now the very first to be entered into the roll.

From 1785-1820, Dugald Stewart served as the chair of Moral Philosophy. He was one of the architects of ethnology in the late 18th & early 19th centuries. He inspired James Cowle Prichard, the founder of British ethnology & Samuel Morton who attended Edinburgh Medical School.

It’s ironic that a Black male philosopher (the group thought to be the least evolved by ethnologists) now holds a professorial chair, unattained by Hume, & unimaginable to Dugald Stewart–one of the 1st philosophers to argue skin color indicated the moral & intellectual inferiority of Blacks to whites. My first office at the University of Edinburgh was in the Dugald Stewart Building, & my current office is in the formerly named David Hume Tower. Both figures argued for the racial inferiority of Black people.

I accepted this position in 2019 at the age of 39. To date, I am the only Black professor of philosophy in Scotland, and likely the U.K. It took 441 years to get one Black Professor of Philosophy. Let’s hope it does not take a century for another.

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