• Date of Birth: July 17, 1911
  • Born City: York County
  • Born State/Country: VA
  • Date of Death: February 18, 2007
  • Death City: Washington
  • Death State/Country: DC
  • Married: Elaine Hill, 8 June 1935
  • Education:

    Grad., Boston Latin School, 1928; A.B., Harvard University, 1932; A.M., 1933; Ph.D., 1944; study at AAR, 1938; Fulbright research scholar, Italy, 1950; LLD (hon.), Bard College, 1957; D.Litt. (hon.), Union College, 1979; L.H.D. (hon.), Georgetown University, 1985; L.H.D. (hon.), Howard University, 1985; LHD, University Maryland, 1993.

  • Dissertation:

    "De servis libertisque Pompeianis" (Harvard, 1944); summary at HSCP 56-57 (1947) 255-8.

  • Professional Experience:

    Instructor classics, Virginia State College, 1933-36; Instructor classics, Spelman College, 1936-40; Instructor classics, Howard University, 1942-44; chair dept. classics, 1942-77; Director, Howard University (Evening School and Adult Education), 1942-48; Director, Howard University (Summer School), 1942-54; asso. prof., 1944-5; prof., 1945-90; Chair, Humanities Prog., 1950-1; Dean, College Liberal Arts, 1956-68; Fulbright Scholar, 1949-50; Specialist lecturer International Information Administration, Department State, French West Africa, Gold Coast, Nigeria, Libya, Italy, Greece, Austria, 1953; cultural attaché Am. Embassy, Rome, Italy, 1954-56; visiting lecturer Foreign Service Institute, 1956-62, 66-68; U.S. specialist in, India, lecturer, Bombay, New Delhi, Lucknow, Calcutta, Madras areas, 1957; delegate, UNESCO, 1958, 1960; lecturer as U.S. specialist, Brazil, summer 1960, studied higher education, Soviet Union, 1958; participant international seminar University Today, Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, 1958; member U.S. del. United Nations Educational, Paris, 1958, 60, U.S. national commission for, 1958-61; member National Humanities Faculty, 1969-70, member board, 1970-73; annual lecturer Archaeol. Institute Am., 1970-71, 74-76; visiting scholar University Center Virginia, 1971-72; member committee International Exchange Persons, 1970-73; member jury to select fellows in classics Am. Academy Rome, 1971-73; member committee Folger Fellowship Program, 1972-75; Am. Council Learned Societies rep. Council on International Exchange of Scholars, 1973-77; member D.C. committee on Fulbright scholarships, 1951-54, 68-74; fellow Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1977; scholar-in-residence Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio, Italy, fall 1977; adjunct professor classics Georgetown University, 1991-92, Blegen vis. dist. res. prof., Vassar College, 1992-93; Medaglia d'Oro for work in Italian culture and education Italy, 1958; ACLS fellow, 1962-63; NEH grantee, summer 1970; AIA Lecturer, 1970-1, 1974member, D.C. Mayor's Comm. Arts and Humanities, 1972-74; vis. comm. board overseers dept. classics, Harvard College, 1977-83; fellow, Woodrow Wilson Int. Center for Scholars, 1977; memb., Am. Conference Academy Deans (secretary, editor 1959-62, chairman 1963-4), Am. Council on Education, trustee, Vergilian Society Am., 1956-60; Goodwin award, APA, 1973, board directors 1976-79, 2d vice president 1983-4; recipient National Humanities medal, 2003.

  • Publications:

    “The Negro in Classical Italy,” AJP 70 (1947) 266-92; The Negro in Ancient Greece,” American Anthropologist 50,1 (1948) 31-44 (abstract at TAPA 78 (1946) 322-3); “The Classics and Adult Education,” CJ 45 (1950) 373-8; “The Negro in the Mediterranean World from Minoan to Roman Times,” in Actes du premier Congrès de la Fédération internationale des Associations d'études classiques (Paris: Klincksieck, 1951) 75; “Rome and the Ethiopian Warrior,” in Studies Presented to D. M. Robinson on His Seventieth Birthday, ed. G.E. Mylonas & D. Raymond (St. Louis: Washington University Press, 1953) II: 906-917; “A Note on Hannibal's Mahouts,” NC 14 (1954) 197-8; “Ethiopians and the Isiac Worship,” AC 25 (1956) 112-6; “Some Greek and Roman Observations on the Ethioplan, Traditio 16 (1960) 19-38; Blacks in Antiquity. Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 1970). REVS:  CP LXV 1970 260-261 Helmbold | CB XLVI 1970 89-90 Welch | CW LXIV 1970 90 Moeller | LEC XXXVIII 1970 407 | Phoenix XXV 1971 186-188 Whittaker | G&R XVIII 1971 113 Sewter | AHR LXXVI 1971 139-140 Smith | African Hist. Stud. IV (Boston Univ. African Stud. Center) 1971 383-386 Warmington | Gnomon XLIII 1971 829-832 Mauny | Latomus XXX 1971 1203-1205 Rougé | Mnemosyne XXIV 1971 437-439 den Boer | BVAB XLV 1970 182-184 van Straten | TG LXXXIV 1971 440-442 Breebaart  | Amer. Anthropologist LXXIV (Washington Amer. Anthropological Assoc.) 1972 159-160 Angel | Journal of African Hist. XII 1971 157-159 Mauny | CR XXII 1972 253-255 Cook | Prudentia IV 1972 58-60 Hawtrey | REA LXXIII 1971 496-498 Metzge | PACA XII 1973 57-58 Saddington | AJPh XCIV 1973 212-214 MacKendrick | AC XLIV 1975 781 Cébeillac-Gervasoni | Eos LXIII 1975 210-212 Danielewicz; “The Significance of Classical Art for Greco-Roman Acquaintance with Negroid Types,” AJA 74 (1970) 204; “Mixed Black-White Types in Greek and Roman Art,” AJA 75 (1971) 214; “Témoignages iconographiques sur les populations noires dans l'Afrique gréco-romaine, I” in L'image du Noir dans l'art occidental, I : Des Pharaons à la chute de l'empire romain I, ed. J. Desanges (Fribourg: Office du Livre, 1976) 133-245; “Blacks in Antiquity through the Eyes of Greek and Roman Artists,:” in Afrique noire et monde méditerranéen dans l'antiquité. Colloque de Dakar, 19-24 janvier 1976(Dakar-Abidjan: Les nouv. éd. africaines, 1978) 185-8; Before Color Prejudice. The Ancient View of Blacks (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1983) REVS: Archaeology XXXVI, 5 1983 74 Casson | TLS LXXXII 1983 1152 Hopkins | Intern. Journ. of African Hist. Stud. XVII 1984 520-522 Warmington | Amer. Journ. of Sociol. XC 1984 226-227 Noel | Platon XXXVI 1984 142-143 Rexine | G&R XXXI 1984 104 Walcot | AHR LXXXIX 1984 103 Shinnie | Gnomon LVI 1984 373-374 Diesner | PP XXXIX 1984 310-320 Lepore | Amer. Journ. of Sociology XC 1985 226-227 Noel | Int. Journ. of African Hist. Stud. XVII (Boston Univ., African Stud. Center) 520-522 Warmington | Latomus XLV 1986 895-896 Salmon; “Μέλας-λευκός and Niger-candidus in Classical Literature,” AHB 2 (1988) 60-4; “Bernal's ‘Blacks,’ Herodotus, and Other Classical Evidence,” in Arethusa, Special Issue: The Challenge of Black Athena, ed. John Peradotto (Buffalo: State Univ. of New York, 1989) 83-95; “Romans and Blacks: A Review Essay,” AJP 111 (1990) 543-57;“Black-White Relations in the Ancient Greek and Roman Worlds,”  Mediterranean Quarterly 1 (1990) 72-92; “Asclepiades' Didyme,” GRBS 32 (1991) 239-53; “Misconceptions about African Blacks in the Ancient Mediterranean World: Specialists and Afrocentrists,” Arion 3rd ser. 4 (1996-1997) 28-50; “Bernal, ‘Blacks’ and the Afrocentrists,” in Black Athena Revisited, ed. Mary R. Lefkowitz and Guy McLean Rogers (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996) 112-28; “Greeks and Ethiopians,” in Greeks and Barbarians: Essays on the Interactions between Greeks and Non-Greeks in Antiquity and the Consequences for Eurocentrism, ed. John E. Coleman and Clark A. Walz (Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 1997) 103-26; “Attitudes towards Blacks in the Greek and Roman World: Misinterpretations of the Evidence,” in Africa and Africans in Antiquity,  ed. Edwin M. Yamauchi (East Lansing: Michigan State University Pr., 2001) 246-75.

  • Notes:

    On November 9, 1970, the President of France, Georges Pompidou, announced the death of Charles de Gaulle to a grieving nation.  In a most memorable and epigrammatic turn of phrase he gravely intoned, “La France est veuve.”  I borrowed these words in reporting on the passing of Professor Snowden at a meeting of the faculty shortly after his death.  I felt then and still believe today that they were apt.  The academy at large, Howard University and the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of Classics in particular would henceforth be bereft of a towering figure.The Department had lost its long-time absolute (and, on occasion, absolutist!) leader, its undeniable commander-in-chief, its most fervent promoter, its moral compass, its very soul.

    Professor Snowden had a long and celebrated life in a variety of professional vocations––scholar, instructor, administrator, diplomat.  In his scholarship he blazed a trail in an area that he made virtually his own, the study of Blacks in antiquity. By the time I arrived at Howard University in 1984, Professor Snowden had already been formally retired for several years, though he did continue to teach now and then.  I beheld him in action, holding forth in the classroom in his mainstay course, ‘Blacks in Antiquity’ and I quickly came to realize from his booming voice and uncompromising pronouncements why he had been dubbed ZEUS by his students already in the 1940s. By the time I became Chairman of the Department in 1998, he was fully in retirement, but he remained a constant reader of both Greek and Latin texts. His and his wife’s health declined more and more, necessitating a move from their spacious and well-appointed condominium.  I helped with the administration of his extensive collection of books, many of which were donated to our departmental library. Thereafter I made periodic visits to have lunch and chat about various topics, among them the progress of our students.  Although his memory was no longer as keen as it had been, there were obvious sparks when the conversation veered to the discipline of classics––and Harvard.  On my final visit I arrived wearing a t-shirt which I had purchased in Cambridge and which spelled out in large letters HAHVAHD.  He chuckled with appreciation, mocking himself for this reminder of his own articulation of his beloved alma mater.

    Two events coincided in 2001 to honor the grand achievements of Professor Snowden. The Department had finally succeeded in establishing a series of annual lectures as a tribute, a series that has presented scholarship in the classical world tailored mostly to a broad undergraduate audience. The inaugural lecture was delivered in 2003 by Professor Danielle Allen.  While all of the presentations have graciously acknowledged Professor Snowden’s scholarship and impact to varying degrees, two have been especially noteworthy in more fully embracing and engaging his life and his particular interests.  Thus, in 2012 Professor Emily Greenwood lectured on "Herodotus’ Ethiopians and the Politics of Back Classicism after Snowden," a most timely reminder of his continued relevance. The highlight, as many of us would agree, occurred at the fifth annual lecture in 2007, delivered by Professor Frank M. Snowden III. He thrilled the large assembly of current and former students and alumni (some from the 1940s and 1950s who were/are members of the Howard University faculty) with his poignant, humorous, and insightful reminiscences of his father.  His presentation was aptly titled ‘Growing Up with Zeus: Memories of Childhood, Black Athena, and Frank M. Snowden, Jr.’

    Even more profound perhaps was the second event. I received a call from the National Endowment for the Humanities, swearing me to silence but asking that I help arrange for a White House tribute to Professor Snowden.  He would be joined by other luminaries, such as John Updike, in receiving the National Humanities Medal.  The words with which he was introduced deserve to be quoted:  “Frank M. Snowden, Jr., for a life of eminent scholarship, inspirational teaching, public service, and personal courage on behalf of civilization’s noblest ideals.  A lionhearted classicist, he is an Olympian man.”  Of course he was; after all, he was ZEUS!

    Professor Snowden and the Howard University Department of Classics have always been synonymous terms. Without his deep and vast learning, passion, determination, leadership, and commitment to excellence, Classics might not have flourished as long as it did at the University.  Although our program, as is the case with many humanities departments throughout the nation, no longer offers a Classics major, we continue to instill in the hearts and minds of those students who take courses in antiquity the rich and pervasive impact of the scholarship of our undisputed master.


  • Notes (2):


  • Sources:

    WhAm ; NYTimes (28 February 2007); Washington Post (22 February 2007); R. Hock, CW 100,4 (2007) 449-51

  • Author: Rudolph Hock