Herskovits, Melville Jean (hûrsˈkəvĭts) [key], 1895–1963, American anthropologist, b. Bellefontaine, Ohio; educated at the Univ. of Chicago (Ph.B., 1920) and Columbia (Ph.D., 1923). After teaching at Columbia and at Howard Univ. he went to Northwestern Univ., where he taught anthropology from 1927. He did ethnographic research in Suriname, Haiti, Trinidad, and Brazil, but his most important work was done in Africa. Herskovits pioneered in the application of the principles of modern cultural anthropology to black ethnology. Among his works are The American Negro: A Study in Racial Crossing (1928), Dahomey (1938), The Myth of the Negro Past (1941), Man and His Works (1949; reissued 1955 as Cultural Anthropology ), Franz Boas (1953), Dahomean Narrative: A Cross-Cultural Analysis (1958, with his wife, Frances S. Herskovits), and The Human Factor in Changing Africa (1962).
See study by G. E. Simpson (1973).