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Stith, Charles R. (1949- )

Ambassador Charles Richard Stith, a diplomat, minister, professor, and urban reformer, presently serves as the Director of the African Presidential Archives and Research Center at Boston University in Massachusetts. In 1998, President Bill Clinton named him ambassador to Tanzania.

Stith was born on August 29, 1949 and raised in racially segregated St. Louis, Missouri.  In 1973 Stith earned his bachelor’s liberal arts degree at Baker University in Baldwin, Kansas. Two years later, he earned his Masters of Divinity degree at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and married urban health scholar-activist Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith. In 1977, he received a second master’s degree in theology from the Harvard University Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

While attending Harvard, Stith began serving Boston’s South End community as a junior minister at Union United Methodist Church. In 1979, he was at age 30 appointed as the youngest senior minister at Union. In this role, he increased the church’s appeal to youth and led the congregation in embracing new members of diverse backgrounds.  Stith also became one of the leaders in the Boston protests against apartheid in South Africa.

In 1987 Stith founded the non-profit institution, Organization for the New Equality (ONE) which sought to promote investment in Boston’s inner city neighborhoods and create economic opportunity for women and people of color.  Under Stith’s leadership, ONE received $500 million in funding from BancBoston Mortgage Corporation in 1995 to create the first comprehensive community reinvestment agreement in the country.  His success at the state level led to his appointment to the national committee that restructured the Community Reinvestment Act (1977) which channeled nearly $2 trillion in credit and capital to low- and moderate-income communities and communities of color between 1995 and 2008.

In 1994 Stith was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the U.S. delegation which monitored South Africa’s first