Remembering Dr. Jean Hay

Jean Hay
Jean Hay during her tenure as Editor of the International Journal of African Historical Studies at the African Studies Center.

It is with great sadness that we inform the African Studies Center community of the passing of former Editor of the International Journal of African Historical Studies, Dr. Margaret Jean Hay. She passed peacefully on July 11, 2022, at age 78, after a long struggle with Alzheimers. At the African Studies Center, Jean is remembered as a vibrant person. A pillar of the ASC for decades, Jean was outspoken in the face of injustice, and was a caring and creative friend and mentor. She is sorely missed. 

Born and raised in Pomona, CA, Jean got her first taste of international travel when she spent her senior year in high school as an AFS exchange student in Norway. She spent a semester in France while an undergraduate at Stanford University and a summer in Côte d’Ivoire as part of Operation Crossroads Africa. She graduated from Stanford summa cum laude, then earned Masters and PhD degrees at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her graduate studies included two months in Egypt and two years in Kenya. Later, research grants and pleasure travel would keep Jean globe-trotting for years to come. Of particular meaning were return trips to Norway, Scotland and Kenya with her husband and son, reuniting with “adopted” families from earlier travels. As her son’s educational path took him overseas, she delighted in visiting him in France and Japan.

A well-known professor of African Studies, Jean began her career at Wellesley College, then moved to the African Studies Center at Boston University. She was a creative teacher who loved mentoring students; her weekly seminar series was a fixture among Boston academics; and as a scholar, she pioneered the use of African oral histories to counterbalance the views of Eurocentric writers. Her articles were published in numerous anthologies, and she authored several books on African and women’s history. Two of her co-edited collections, African Women South of the Sahara and African Women and the Law, count among the first and most widely cited publications to center women in the field, and her African Novels in the Classroom is now a classic. She served as editor for the International Journal of African Historical Studies; as founder and co-editor of the journal African Economic History; as co-principal investigator for “African Expressions of the Colonial Experience” funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities; as co-founder for Heinemann’s Social History of Africa series, and editor for their Africa-Caribbean series; and as editor for Africa and the Middle East at Lynne Rienner Publishers. She retired in 2005.

A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. If you wish to honor Jean, please consider a gift in her name to a favorite charity. You are also welcome to make a donation to the Jean Hay Charitable Foundation, an endowed non-profit she established in 2012. The fund makes annual gifts to various causes important to her. Gifts to the Jean Hay Charitable Foundation can be mailed to PO Box 493, Lincoln, RI, 02865.