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                                    Dr. Harry A. Kersey, Jr.

Dr. Kersey's Finding Aid

Harry A. Kersey, Jr. is Professor Emeritus of History at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.  A native Floridian, he received his Bachelor of Arts and Masters degrees from the University of Florida, and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Kersey has a rich background in international research and teaching.  He has been a Fulbright Senior Scholar at two African universities—the University of Zimbabwe (1984) and the National University of Lesotho (1988)—where he lectured and initiated research on comparative frontier history.  In 1996 the United States Information Agency sponsored his appearance as a Visiting Lecturer on American Indian history at the Linguistics University of Nizhny Novgorod in Russia.  During 2000 he was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the National Library of New Zealand conducting research for a comparative study of Maori and American Indian sovereignty issues. The Treaty of Waitangi Research Unit at Victoria University of Wellington published his initial research findings.  As a follow-up to the New Zealand work, Kersey was awarded a Visiting Research Fellowship at the East-West Center in Honolulu during the summer of 2001.  He returned to New Zealand in 2002 and 2005 as a Fulbright Senior Specialist examining the impact of Maori issues in New Zealand politics.

Professor Kersey has extensive experience working in cross-cultural settings both in the United States and abroad, and is well versed in the skills required to interact with indigenous colleagues in analyzing and assessing state and NGO programs.  Recognized as an expert on the history and culture of Florida Indians, he served as a consultant to the Seminole Tribe in its land claims and water rights cases.  The Miccosukee Tribe also engaged him in their efforts to overturn PL 83-280 and secure retrocession of jurisdiction in criminal cases from state to tribal courts.  He has also appeared as an expert witness in federal court cases involving Indian civil rights issues.  For a decade Kersey served as a member of the Florida Governor’s Council on Indian Affairs, a commission that advises the state’s chief executive on policy matters affecting native peoples.  By law the Council’s membership is comprised of two-thirds Indians and one-third are at-large members.  At the request of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, three successive governors appointed Kersey as an at-large member during the period 1978-1988. 

Kersey has written extensively on issues impacting indigenous people.  His trilogy on Florida’s Indians in the 19th and 20th century includes Pelts, Plumes and Hides: White Traders among the Seminole Indians, 1870-1930 (Florida, 1975), which received a commendation from the American Association for State and Local History.  The other works were: The Florida Seminoles and the New Deal, 1933-1942 (Florida, 1989), and   An Assumption of Sovereignty: Social and Political Transformation among the Seminole Indians, 1953-1979 (Nebraska, 1996).  Buffalo Tiger: A Life in the Everglades (Nebraska, 2002), a biography co-authored with legendary Miccosukee Indian leader Buffalo Tiger, received both the James Horgan Book Award and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Prize from the Florida Historical Society in 2003.  His most recent work is Seminole Voices: Reflections on Their Changing Society, 1970-2000 (Nebraska, 2010), co-authored with Julian Pleasants.  Seminole Voices received a silver medal in the non-fiction category of the 2010 Florida Book Awards.  It also won the Harry and Harriet Moore Book Award and The Samuel Proctor Oral History Prize given by the Florida Historical Society. In addition to eleven books, Kersey has authored or co-authored over 80 articles and chapters in scholarly works.  In 1987 he received the Arthur W. Thompson Prize awarded by the Florida Historical Society for the best article on Florida history.

Kersey has been the recipient of numerous study and research grants from agencies including the American Philosophical Society, National Endowment for the Humanities, The Newberry Library, D’Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian, Florida Humanities Council, and the American Association for State and Local History.  In 1998 Kersey received the American Association for State and Local History’s Award of Merit for “contributions to the understanding of Florida history.”  The same year he was also selected as a recipient of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution History Award Medal.  Highly regarded as an excellent teacher, the State University System of Florida selected professor Kersey for its Teaching Improvement Program award in 1995, and a prestigious Professorial Excellence Program award in 1998.

Professor Kersey is currently involved in comparative research on indigenous rights, political sovereignty, and the impact of minority issues on national governments.  In addition, he offers courses occasionally at both Florida Atlantic University and the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

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