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Mary R. Lefkowitz (born 1935) is an American classical scholar and Professor Emerita of Classical Studies at Wellesley College. She is best known to non-Classicists for her anti-Afrocentrism book, Not Out of Africa (1996). She is the widow of Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones.
Lefkowitz earned her B.A. from Wellesley College in 1957, Phi Beta Kappa with honors in Greek, and received her Ph.D. in Classical Philology from Radcliffe College (now part of Harvard University) in 1961. She returned to Wellesley College in 1959 as an instructor in Greek. In 1979 she was named Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, a position she held until her retirement in 2005. Lefkowitz holds an honorary degree from Trinity College (1996), which cited her “deep concern for intellectual integrity,” and also from the University of Patras (1999) and from Grinnell College (2000). In 2004 she received a Radcliffe Graduate Society Medal. In 2006 she was awarded a National Humanities Medal “for outstanding excellence in scholarship and teaching.” In 2008 she was the recipient of a Wellesley College Alumnae Achievement Award.
Lefkowitz has published on subjects including mythology, women in antiquity, Pindar, and fiction in ancient biography. She came to the attention of a wider audience through her criticism of the claims of Martin Bernal in Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization in her book Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth As History. In Black Athena Revisited (1996), which she edited with Guy MacLean Rogers, her colleague at Wellesley College, the ideas of Martin Bernal are further scrutinized.
In 2008, Lefkowitz published History Lesson, which the Wall Street Journal described as a "personal account of what she experienced as a result of questioning the veracity of Afrocentrism and the motives of its advocates." She was attacked in newsletters from the Wellesley Africana Studies Department by her colleague Tony Martin, which turned into a rancorous, personal conflict with anti-Semitic elements. Martin stated in May 1994 at Cornell University that "Black people should interpret their own reality. . . . Jews have been in the forefront of efforts to thwart the interpretation of our own history." In another incident described in her book, Yosef A. A. ben-Jochannan, the author of Africa: The Mother of Western Civilization, gave the Martin Luther King lecture at Wellesley in 1993. Dr. Lefkowitz attended this lecture with her husband, Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford University. In that lecture, ben-Jochannan stated that Aristotle stole his philosophy from the library at Alexandria, Egypt. During the question and answer session following the lecture, Lefkowitz asked ben-Jochannan, "How would that have been possible, when the library was not built until after his death?" ben-Jochannan replied that the dates were uncertain. Sir Hugh responded, "Rubbish!" Lefkowitz writes that ben-Jochannan proceeded to tell those present that "they could and should believe what black instructors told them" and "that although they might think that Jews were all 'hook-nosed and sallow faced,' there were other Jews who looked like himself."