Ogbu, John U(zor) 1939-2003

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OGBU, John U(zor) 1939-2003


See index for CA sketch: Born May 9, 1939, in Onicha, Nigeria; died of a heart attack August 20, 2003, in Oakland, CA. Anthropologist, educator, and author. A highly respected professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Ogbu was interested in the anthropology of modern education and why some minority groups in America do worse than others at school. As a young student, he first studied teaching at the Methodist Teachers College in his homeland and taught Latin, geography, and math there for two years; he also studied at the Africa Writing Center in Zambia. Briefly considering a career in the ministry, he came to the United States in 1961 to study at the University of Princeton Theological Seminary before switching to anthropology and attending the University of California at Berkeley, where he eventually earned his doctorate in 1971. After working as an ethnographer for a year in Stockton, California, schools, he joined the faculty at Berkeley in 1970, becoming a full professor of anthropology in 1980. As a researcher, Ogbu was influential in his studies of minority student performance, and he formed a theory that "voluntary minorities"—those who had come to America of their own accord—did better than "involuntary minorities" such as African Americans and Latino Americans, because the latter saw school tests and other educational methods as ways in which mainstream white culture tried to oppress them and deny them their own cultural heritage. Consequently, he was also an advocate of using Ebonics to help teach African Americans. Ogbu was the author of several books about education, including The Next Generation: An Ethnography of Education in an Urban Neighborhood (1974), Minority Education and Caste: The American System in Cross-cultural Perspective (1978), and Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Engagement (2003), the last of which gained him considerable attention in the media.



Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2003, p. B23.

San Francisco Chronicle, August 23, 2003, p. A21.