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National conference at MIT focuses on black women academics

More than 1,000 registrations have been received for the major national conference, "Black Women in the Academy: Defending our Name 1894-1994," which will be held at MIT January 13, 14 and 15 in Kresge Auditorium.

The conference is the first national meeting to focus on the special issues and scholarship of black women in higher education, say its organizers, Robin Kilson, professor of history and a specialist in European imperialism and colonialism, African and African-American history and women's studies, and Evelynn Hammonds, an assistant professor of the history of science in the Program in Science, Technology and Society, a specialist in the history of medicine.

Sponsored by MIT, Wellesley College and Radcliffe College, with support from a number of foundations, the conference is a unique opportunity to address historical and contemporary issues facing black women at colleges and universities and to examine the role of black women scholars in public life, said Professors Kilson and Hammonds.

Prior to this conference, there has been no forum for black women academics to share their issues and experiences, collectively see each other's research and to network with other professionals with similar backgrounds.

The conference's three keynote speakers are:

  • Lani Guinier of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, proposed by President Clinton, but later withdrawn, to head the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.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 program also lists more than 60 varied panels, workshops and roundtable discussions. Topics include: Foremothers: Rethinking Our Intellectual Debts; Black Women and the Welfare State: Intersections of Social Policy; Pedagogical Concerns: Race, Gender and Authority in the Classroom; Exploring the Realities of Black Student Life on Predominantly White Campuses; and Black Female Sacrificial Political Lambs: Anita Hill and Lani Guinier. Discussions will also cover the media, Hollywood, marginalization and social change.

Professors Kilson and Hammonds hope the conference will break through the isolation that colleagues have complained about within the academic environment.

Academics will be coming from all over the United States and from South Africa and the Netherlands. Many universities are also sending groups of students.

A version of this article appeared in the January 5, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 18).

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