Image from Colgage University, https://www.colgate.edu/news/stories/roy-bryce-laporte-ex-alst-director-and-professor-dies
West Indian Panamanian American, Sociology, Ethnic Studies, Diaspora Studies
Roy Simon Bryce-Laporte
A trailblazer in African American, Latin American, and Caribbean studies programs, Roy Simon Bryce-Laporte developed innovative projects and curriculum that examined Black cultural traditions and migratory patterns in the Western Hemisphere.
Roy Simon Bryce-Laporte, a Panamanian American of West Indian heritage, began his academic training at the University of Panama. He migrated to the U.S. in the 1950s and earned a BA (1960) and MA (1961) at the University of Nebraska. After advanced studies and fieldwork in Puerto Rico, he received his PhD in Sociology from UCLA (1968), where he participated in the West Indian Studies program. In 1985, he added a Master’s in Law degree from Yale University to his academic achievements.
Dr. Bryce-Laporte built his 40-year career advancing scholarship in African American studies as a regional experience. His perspective was forged in his birthplace, the Republic of Panama. He is a product of racially segregated West Indian communities that reflected the Caribbean’s rich cultural, linguistic, and class diversity. Bryce-Laporte’s affinity for resilient and under-represented working-class communities as well as his own experiences as a Black immigrant to the United States, inspired his scholarship in migration and his commitment to dismantling misconceptions about the African American diaspora.
Bryce-Laporte began teaching at University of Southern California, Syracuse University and Hunter College. In 1969, Yale University installed him as founding director of its Afro-American Studies program. There, he developed his first multi-disciplinary curriculum with a hemispheric perspective.
In 1972, the Smithsonian Institution selected him as a Woodrow Wilson International Scholar and then recruited him to serve as the founding director of its Research Institute on Immigration and Ethnic Studies. While at the Smithsonian, Bryce-Laporte edited several books on Black and Latin-American immigration. He curated exhibitions for Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife, and organized a groundbreaking, bicentennial conference on the African Diaspora.
In 1986, he curated the exhibition, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor? Voluntary Black Migration to the United States for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and later for New York’s Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration. In 1989, he joined Colgate University as the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and director of its Africana and Latin American Studies Program. He remained at Colgate until his retirement.
Throughout his career, Dr. Bryce-Laporte lectured and taught at various universities, earned many fellowships and awards, and worked with numerous international organizations. Bryce-Laporte believed that scholars and institutions representing the diaspora had a responsibility to sensitize and mobilize African American, Afro-Hispanic, and Caribbean groups around the issues of their identities and cultural heritages.
His noted publications relevant to folklore include:
Sourcebook on the New Immigration (1980)