Director of African American Studies
Department of History
B.A. North Carolina Central University
Ph.D. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
The biggest part of history is often found in the smallest stories.
“My grandmother took me everywhere to visit her elderly friends. I would sit and listen to their stories about the past and they just fascinated me. When I went back to school later in life, I decided to do research on the history of the first black high school. I interviewed the first principal of the school and he told me that I should really be interviewing his wife, so I did. It was the most fascinating interview I had done and that’s how I started studying black women school teachers.
“Now, I am dedicated to taking a deeper look at this group that has been omitted from the landscape and seeing how they have impacted generation after generation. They teach medicine, politics, economics, art, music and they reach the masses. There’s absolutely nothing that they don’t have some impact on. Now, I see some parallels in my own life. For instance, I remember coming back from an international conference and being so tired that I wondered why I had agreed to be a guest speaker at a small celebration for World War II veterans in Estill, South Carolina. When I arrived and heard their stories I realized how important this connection was. The organizers spoke with me and asked if I could come back and bring students so that more people could study those stories as well.
“The College of Arts & Sciences prepares students to think for themselves. It’s so important to have the capacity to ask questions that lead to an answer. Liberal arts education gives foundational knowledge. No matter what job they take or what their future plans are, students will need to have that kind of capacity to be able to actively engage in simple and complex issues. For example, what is one way to be able to start a company involving another culture? Know its history. This kind of foundational knowledge can help students cross the bridge to their future.”