Charles Nichols

May 17th, 2007

I was saddened to read of the death of Professor Charles Nichols (March/April). I was a senior the year he came to Brown. Although he was recruited to head the Afro-American Studies program, he also taught, within the English department, a course on Jewish literature of the Holocaust and post–World War II era, which I took. We read Elie Wiesel, Jerzy Kosinski, Saul Bellow, and others. I was delighted to read this material in an academic setting, but I was amazed (and delighted) that it was this elegant and thoughtful black man teaching the course, that this literature could reach across racial and ethnic dividing lines and resonate with a black gentile in the same way that the black literature I’d been reading (especially in classes with George Bass) resonated with me, a white Jew.

I’ve thought of Professor Nichols often over the years, and always with admiration and the hope that he was doing well. He really had an influence on me, as I’m sure was the case with many others. So many of my most fondly remembered teachers at Brown (Karl Weimar, George Bass, John Workman, and now Charles Nichols) have died, and what’s it been, a lousy thirty-seven years?

Robert Schwartz ’70


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May / June 2007