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Stanford Oral History Collections

Gibbs, James Lowell.
Gibbs, James Lowell.
Gibbs, James Lowell and Kiefer, Joyce
Corporate Author:
Stanford Historical Society
In this 2015 oral history interview, anthropologist James Lowell Gibbs Jr. discusses his early life and education, his fieldwork in Liberia, teaching anthropology to undergraduates, and his service as Stanford University’s first dean of undergraduate studies. Gibbs describes his family background and credits the book African Journey by Eslanda Goode Robeson with sparking his interest in anthropology. He discusses his undergraduate education at Cornell University, especially conducting social science research on intergroup relations as an undergraduate--an experience that would later inform his ideas about undergraduate education as a Stanford administrator. He speaks of the Rotary Foundation Fellowship that allowed him to study anthropology at Cambridge for a year and discusses his graduate education at Harvard, where he learned from Cora Du Bois and others. Shifting to his research, Gibbs describes the circumstances that led him to focus on tribal law among the Kpelle people of Liberia and relates memories of his field work there, including the making of the prize-winning film, The Cows of Dolo Kenpaye. Gibbs recounts his rationale for moving from the University of Minnesota to Stanford in 1966. He describes the founding of the Program in African and Afro-American Studies and the recruitment of St. Clair Drake to direct the program. He recalls some of the work that he did as Stanford’s first dean of undergraduate studies, and he discusses his tenure a chair of the Department of Anthropology and the split of the department that occurred in the late 1990s. Gibbs also discusses his efforts to recruit minority faculty and his work with student-initiated programs such as SWOPSI (Student Workshop on Political and Social Improvement) and SCIRE (Student Center for Innovation in Research and Education). He concludes by commenting on vivid Stanford memories and some of the board positions he has held.
James Lowell Gibbs Jr., Stanford Historical Society, oral histories, higher education, interviews, professors, Stanford University--Department of Anthropology, Stanford University--Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Kpelle (African people), Jewelle Taylor Gibbs, and anthropologists
October 27, 2015
Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program interviews, 1999-2012