In 1969, he was the founding director of the African American Studies Department at Yale University at a time of burgeoning interest in African American studies and of heightened racial tension.
His students at Yale between 1969 and 1972 included Henry Louis Gates Jr., the well-known Harvard University professor and director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, and Kurt Schmoke, the general counsel and vice president of Howard University and former mayor of Baltimore.
“He was a truly inspiring teacher,” Schmoke said in an interview. “He introduced us to a field of black literature and black authors we had known nothing about.”
After Yale, Dr. Bryce-Laporte came to the Smithsonian, initially with the first group of Woodrow Wilson International Scholars. He was a key figure in making the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall a celebration of the ethnic diversity of American culture, said Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian’s undersecretary for history, art and culture.