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History Peeps: Dr. Albert S. Broussard, Professor of History

Dr. Broussard meeting Dr. John Hope Franklin at a speech in the latter’s honor.

Dr. Al Broussard has witnessed epic changes in his time here at Texas A&M University. With a B.A. from Stanford University in 1973 and a Ph.D. from Duke in 1977, Dr. Broussard first arrived at the TAMU History Department in 1985. His job upon being hired was to create the university’s first African American history courses. Since then, he has continued to teach the same course he created then and has had the satisfaction of seeing this historical subfield develop considerably since the 1980s.

Early on, Dr. Broussard’s career overlapped with the classical phase of the Civil Rights movement. He remembers sit-in protests at the Stanford University administration offices during the early 1970s to encourage the admission of a higher percentage of African American candidates. He once attended a debate at the university where one speaker argued, quite seriously, in favor of white supremacy by appealing to “phrenology.” Phrenology was a bogus pseudoscience that claimed different races have different personality types and intellectual potential based on the shape of their skull.

At that time, scholarship on African American history was only just beginning to be taken seriously. Dr. Broussard reflects, “When I graduated from Duke in 1977, there still wasn’t a scholarly biography of Martin Luther King Jr. This was only a decade after he had been assassinated. Now scholars can draw on so many excellent accounts.” Likewise, he notes there were few academic histories of slavery. Those that did exist often excluded accounts by enslaved persons, considering them unreliable. Instead, older scholars relied exclusively on sources written by slaveowners or other white southerners that presented a biased, quasi-fictional history of slavery.

Fortunately, many of these flaws have been rectified in the time since Dr. Broussard started teaching. His introductory US History to 1877 class now reads Frederick Douglass’s autobiography–as do many introductory survey courses. Throughout it all, Dr. Broussard has maintained the same high standards and always pushes his students to excel. According to him, “I don’t fail many students, but I don’t give many As either. If someone gets an A in one of my courses, I don’t say they ‘got it,’ I say they ‘earned it’ because it’s not easy to get that grade.”

Off campus, Dr. Broussard is an avid long-distance runner and enjoys competing in local College Station races. His guilty pleasure is new running shoes, and he regularly goes through three pairs each year.

To what historical figure would Dr. Broussard like to say “Howdy,” given the chance? He has actually met the man he would have chosen: John Hope Franklin. The author of From Slavery to Freedom (1947), a pioneering book on the African American experience, Franklin served as a role model for him throughout his career. One of the proudest moments of his life, Dr. Broussard says, was being asked to give a speech honoring Franklin when the latter came to visit Texas A&M in the 1980s. Today, a picture of them shaking hands sits prominently on his desk. Asked what he said to the eminent historian at their meeting, Dr. Broussard mused, “In situations like that, you usually let the other guy do the talking.”

By Patrick Grigsby ‘27