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Examining the African American Community in Philadelphia

Everett Hardy II, Ph.D. in history

Everett Hardy II did not take the traditional path to the history department’s PhD program. In truth, he did not always want to pursue a doctorate. He received his bachelor’s degree in history from Villanova University in 2008, then master’s degree three years later. He thought, at the time, he was finished.

“After completing both, I did not move directly to a PhD program. In fact, I was adamant that I did not want a PhD,” he explains. “Over the course of four years, I taught at different colleges and kept up with the field. It was teaching history that made me want to pursue the PhD. I wanted to teach at the college level and a terminal degree was required to take that next step.”

Hardy, who started at Lehigh as a teaching assistant, is now a visiting lecturer of history and Africana Studies. He teaches courses on 20th century African American history, African American history through film and Black Radical Thought.

Hardy’s dissertation examines how African American men and women used economic nationalism to create community and challenge Jim Crow in early 20th century Philadelphia. His work examines the practices of the People’s Savings Bank, the Brown and Stevens Bank and the Walton Woman’s Building and Loan Association. His work combines urban, business, African American and gender history to unearth how Black Philadelphians created a “safe space” for themselves in a hostile world. 

As an undergraduate, Hardy loved history and took courses in ancient and medieval history, combining them with race and ethnicity coursework. While pursuing his Master of Arts degree, he refined his interest to American history with a focus on race. “Teaching also allowed me to hone in on a topic, and I learned that my interests were centered on urban spaces and African Americans. I also found the Gilded Age, Progressive Era, and the Roaring Twenties of interest, so I combined these subjects and decided my focus would be Urban African Americans between 1880–1930.”

Spotlight Recipient

Portrait of Everett Hardy

Everett Hardy

Ph.D. in history

Article By:

Leslie Feldman

"The thing Lehigh has that is most important are faculty that are dedicated to uplifting students. I have never been a part of a university and department that supports its people this way. It is a unique experience.”

— Everett Hardy

When deciding on a university, Hardy selected Lehigh for two reasons. The first was the university was recommended to him by undergraduate and graduate school mentor Dr. Lawrence Little, who was familiar with Lehigh and recommended its history department. Secondly, Hardy knew he wanted to study urban and African American history in Philadelphia during the early twentieth century. 

“To achieve this, I needed a university that had strong professors in those fields and was close to my source base in Philadelphia. At the time Dr. Roger Simon was an active member of the faculty (now emeritus), and I thought working with him would be a good fit for me. It was fortuitous that I arrived at that time because Dr. Natanya Duncan joined the faculty that year. As a mentor and advisor, she was vital to my development as a teacher, writer, and academic.” 

As a visiting lecturer, Hardy teaches three courses each semester and has had the pleasure of developing courses in African American political, film and business history. “I have also put my own spin on gender and intellectual history courses offered by the university and had the privilege to work closely with several undergraduate students, supporting them in their educational journeys.”

He added that this year, he is serving as the faculty advisor for the Caribbean Culture Club, an organization revitalized this year by his former students. “It is a unique experience and I have enjoyed interacting with the student body in a more informal setting.” 

Hardy adds that many of his students are interested in learning about Black history. “Many of them have never had the opportunity to learn about the African American experience as it relates to gender, class or politics, and are dedicated to filling that intellectual void. I try to create an intellectually open atmosphere so students feel free to discuss topics or statements that may make them uncomfortable. In essence, I try to create a ‘safe space’ that remains culturally relevant and intellectually rigorous.” 

In the future, Hardy hopes to get a tenure track position at a college or university. “I have a passion for in classroom teaching and I hope to find a position that centers that aspect of our work. I also want to continue my research into African American organizing and community building strategies at the turn of the century. I would like to turn my current work into a book and then continue to explore the stories of African American urban communities through my research and writing.” 

As a historian, Hardy believes that Lehigh is uniquely positioned for anyone doing research in early America, urban, African American and political history. “You can quickly go to archives in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., New York, and Boston, which allows for greater research access and flexibility.”

He added that the history department is dedicated to examining intersecting histories, which is great for students of gender, globalization or the Atlantic world. “The university itself has access to a wealth of digital materials that have been essential for my own work, as well as a variety of software that are difficult to access in other forums. I believe all these things are helpful when completing a doctorate, but the thing Lehigh has that is most important are faculty that are dedicated to uplifting students. I have never been a part of a university and department that supports its people this way. It is a unique experience.” 

Hardy believes the atmosphere and small cohorts of students make it a great place to study. “The university is physically stunning and generally quiet, which makes studying either indoors or outdoors viable options. One can walk up to the Linderman Library, claim a space and read or write undisturbed for hours. I have also remained close to many students who entered the program at the same time as me, and that connection has really helped us all move forward. It is also easy to connect with faculty. The ability to develop a meaningful relationship with an advisor is essential to success at this level. At its best, Lehigh is a place that fosters that type of connection.”

Editor's Note: Since this story was written, Everett Hardy received his PhD and currently is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.