Celebrating the life of Roberta Ann Dunbar
Roberta Ann Dunbar, a beloved associate professor of African and Afro-American Studies at Carolina since 1974, passed away July 6 at the age of 72.
Dunbar came to the University in 1969 and taught in the history department before joining what was then the Curriculum in African and Afro-American Studies in 1974.
She co-chaired the curriculum for 10 years and then developed courses that laid the groundwork for the current Department of African and Afro-American Studies. Dunbar earned a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles, all in history.
Teaching in African literature, art, and gender studies, Dunbar also espoused the “service-learning” movement in the 1990s and taught some participatory development courses in that field. Her research interests were in 20th-and 21st-century social history of West Africa Muslim areas, focusing on law and political movements as they have been influenced and shaped by women.
Continuing education and department programs led to travel and in some cases residence in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea and South Africa. At home, Dunbar's long involvement with the Dispute Settlement Center of Orange County paralleled her intellectual interest in social justice.
Throughout her academic career Dunbar's tireless mentoring of countless students not only helped guide them to productive lives but also created a rich network of progressive colleagues both in Africa and domestically.
In anticipation of her retirement in 2009, the department honored Dunbar for her four decades of University service by establishing a scholarship in her name and dedicating to her its Spring Conference on Muslim African Women.
Michael Lambert, director of the African Studies Center, wrote, “Ann’s career has been distinguished both in terms of her scholarship as a historian and her deep commitment to creating spaces, academic and otherwise, or understanding the experiences of Muslim women in Africa.”
A memorial service was held Sept. 23.