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Forum on black women in the academy

A major, three-day conference at MIT in January, "Black Women in the Academy: Defending Our Name, 1894-1994," is expected to bring more than 1,000 participants to the campus for discussions on concerns central to the lives of black women, inside and outside of the academy.

The keynote speakers, all nationally known, are:

Professor Lani Guinier of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, proposed by President Clinton, but later withdrawn, to head the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

Dr. Johnnetta Cole, president of Spelman College.

Professor Angela Davis of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The January 13-15 conference is being organized by two MIT faculty members, Professor Robin Kilson, who teaches women's studies and African-American history, and Professor Evelynn Hammonds of the Program in Science, Technology and Society, where she teaches the history of science and medicine and women's studies.

MIT President Charles M. Vest, a member of the conference advisory committee, said the Institute "is proud to host this important endeavor whose influence promises to extend far beyond the conference itself." He said the publication of papers and proceedings, the networking opportunities provided by the conference, and the mentoring opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students will combine to give impetus to the important issues addressed at the conference.

Professors Kilson and Hammonds said the conference will present a unique opportunity to address historical and contemporary issues facing black women in the academy and "to examine the role of black women scholars in public life."

Joining Professors Kilson and Hammonds on the conference's executive committee is Florence Ladd, director of the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College.

The conference is jointly sponsored by MIT, Wellesley College and Radcliffe College, with support from the Kellogg Foundation. At MIT, substantial program and logistical support is being provided by the Women's Studies Program, the History Program, the Program in Science, Technology and Society and the Office of Conference Services.

The January 13-15, dates were selected as a between-semesters period during which many academics would find it possible to attend.

Professors Kilson and Hammonds said: "We believe that the time has come for black women in the academy to come together to focus our scholarly energies and public attention on the various worlds which we inhabit. "

The conference will have more than 60 workshops and sessions addressing a wide variety of topics from institutional issues to black women's studies.

A version of this article appeared in the November 10, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 13).

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