It has been just under a month since the passing of noted linguist and educator, Dr. Keith Baird. He is best known for spurring a movement in the ’60’s to advocate for the use of the term Afro-American to describe and categorize Black people across the diaspora.
Baird was born in Barbados on January 20, 1923. He arrived to American in 1947, earning several degrees and entering becoming a language teacher. He earned a bachelor’s degree in romance philology and linguistics at Columbia University and a doctorate in linguistics from Cincinnati’s Union Institute & University before he began his teaching career in New York city schools.
In 1966, and as a founding member of the African-American Teacher’s Association, Baird began speaking out against the use of the word “Negro” to categorize Blacks. In his view, that term and African-American was also limiting and tied its use back to slavery.
With this new push for Afro-American, Baird was aligned with the tenets of Pan-Africanism, although his pursuits were most certainly scholarly as well. With his mastery of 14 languages, Baird went on to teach at several colleges and universities, including Clark Atlanta University, Hunter College, and Hofstra University, among other institutions. He also contributed to many academic journals as it related to his field of study.
Surviving Baird are his wife and two daughters, a stepson and stepdaughter, and 11 grandchildren.
Dr. Baird was 94.
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