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Beverly Guy-Sheftall

Academic administrator and black women's studies professor Beverly Guy-Sheftall was born on June 1, 1946 in Memphis, Tennessee to Walter and Ernestine Varnado-Guy. Reared by her mother, who supported her three daughters by teaching math and later, working as an accountant, Guy-Sheftall was taught to work hard on her studies and to prepare for an independent, productive adulthood. Guy-Sheftall graduated with honors from Manassas High School in 1962, at the age of sixteen. That same year, she entered Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. There, Guy-Sheftall majored in English and minored in secondary education. After earning her B.A. degree in 1966, she moved on to Wellesley College for further study. Guy-Sheftall completed her M.A. degree requirements at Atlanta University in 1970.

In 1971, Guy-Sheftall returned to Spelman College as an English professor. She decided to help broaden the Women’s Studies Movement to include issues pertinent to African Americans. Guy-Sheftall began editing books of literature by African American women and publishing articles about black feminism. Her doctoral dissertation was titled “Daughters of Sorrow: Attitudes toward Black Women, 1880-1920”. Rarely are dissertations published in quantity, but Guy-Sheftall’s was, appearing in 1991 as a volume in the series Black Women in United States History. She received her Ph.D. in 1977 from Emory University. Two years later, Guy-Sheftall co-edited Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature, the first anthology of African American women’s writings.

In the early 1980s, Guy-Sheftall helped to establish two seminal resources for Black Women’s Studies. The first was Spelman College’s Women’s Research and Resource Center which she founded and served as the director for over two decades. The second was the periodical SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women, which Guy-Sheftall co-founded with Patricia Bell-Scott. Her other books include Double Stitch: Black Women Write about Mothers & Daughters, which she co-edited with Bell-Scott; Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought and Gender Talk, which she co-authored with former Spelman College president Johnnetta B.Cole.

As a testament to her intellectual prowess, Guy-Sheftall was awarded Spelman’s Presidential Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholarship. She was also named to the Anna Julia Cooper Professorship, an endowed chair in the English Department that honors the daughter of a slave who earned a doctorate degree from the Sorbonne, in Paris. In addition to these accolades, Guy-Sheftall was a recipient of the Kellogg and Woodrow Wilson Fellowships.

Guy-Sheftall resides in Atlanta, Georgia.

Beverly Guy-Sheftall was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 11, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.255

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/11/2007

Last Name

Guy-Sheftall

Maker Category
Schools

Manassas High School

Spelman College

Clark Atlanta University

Emory University

First Name

Beverly

Birth City, State, Country

Memphis

HM ID

GUY03

Favorite Season

April

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Mexico, Italy

Favorite Quote

I Freed A Thousand Slaves And I Would Have Freed Many, Many More If They Knew They Were Slaves.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

6/1/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lobster, Seafood

Short Description

Academic administrator and black women's studies professor Beverly Guy-Sheftall (1946 - ) was a feminist scholar who founded the Spelman College Women’s Research and Resource Center, and co-founded SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women.

Employment

Spelman College

Alabama State University

‘Daughters of Sorrow: Attitudes Toward Black Women, from 1880-1920’

‘Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought’

‘Traps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality’

‘Gender Talk: The Struggle For Women's Equality in African American Communities’

Favorite Color

Orange

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Beverly Guy-Sheftall's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall remembers her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall recalls her neighborhood in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall remembers her childhood homes

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall remembers her mother's feminist views

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her father's personality and career

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall talks about her parents' relationship

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her parents' education

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall recalls the black business community in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her early education

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall lists her siblings and extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall remembers Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her family's holiday celebrations

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall remembers her high school prom

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her experiences in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall recalls her decision to attend Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her first impression of Spelman College

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall remembers her professors at Spelman College

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall talks about majoring in English

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall remembers the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall recalls her social activities in college

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall remembers Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her early teaching career

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall remembers teaching at Alabama State University and Spelman College

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall recalls founding the Women's Research and Resource Center at Spellman College

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall remembers Audrey Lorde and Toni Cade Bambara

Tape: 2 Story: 16 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall remembers Johnnetta B. Cole

Tape: 2 Story: 17 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall talks about SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes the 'Double Stitch' anthology

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall talks about her edited volumes

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her doctoral dissertation, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her doctoral dissertation, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall talks about her anthologies

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall remembers her marriage

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her career at Spelman College

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her involvement in women's organizations

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall talks about the Black Women's Health Imperative

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall recalls the protests against misogyny at Spelman College, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall recalls the protests against misogyny at Spelman College, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall talks about the importance of feminism

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall talks about her academic publications

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall recalls editing SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her fundraising plans

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Beverly Guy-Shefthall remembers her international travels

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall talks about her international doll collection

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall remembers studying Native American women

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall recalls her experiences in India

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall recalls her travels in Africa

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall talks about her creative interests

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall reflects upon her life

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall reflects upon her decision not to have children

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall shares a message to future generations

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall talks about the future of the Women's Research and Resource Center

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Beverly Guy-Sheftall reflects upon her legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

14$5

DATitle
Beverly Guy-Sheftall recalls founding the Women's Research and Resource Center at Spellman College
Beverly Guy-Sheftall talks about her anthologies
Transcript
So tell me what happens next.$$Well, in, in 1980, I'm exploring, women's centers are beginning to crop up in various places and so as a result of my foundation grant, I'm exploring the possibility of starting a women's center at Spelman [Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia] which I do in 1981. So I leave the English department and am the director of the women's center [Women's Research and Resource Center, Atlanta, Georgia] constructing a women's studies program which started out with a minor in '81 [1981] and that's what I've been doing for twenty-five years since.$$At Spelman?$$At Spelman.$$Okay, well tell me about the development of the women's studies program, how, well, it started in, tell me about how it evolves into what it is today.$$Well we start off in '81 [1981] with a small grant from the MOF Foundation [Microsoft Operations Framework Foundation] and we begin to work on a women's studies minor within the context of a women's center whose, whose mission is community outreach. So lots of activities outside of Spelman, the development of a women's studies program and research on African American women, so, the center has that broad mission. So that's, that's what we've been doing for twenty-five years. We now have a women's studies major. We have loads of community advocacy projects around issues of race and gender. For thirteen years we hosted a journal called, SAGE [SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women] and we managed a Spelman archive so we also are involved in programs that have to do with researchers coming to Spelman, dealing with the Spelman's archives as well as the special collections we have and we now have two. We have the Audre Lorde papers and we have the Toni Cade Bambara papers.$$Okay, well you, you, you said a mouth full so let's back up a little bit. The activities outside of Spelman, what were some of them or what are some of these?$$Well we, oh, there's so many of 'em. We, we have partnered with all kinds of organizations, Black Women's Health Project [Black Women's Health Imperative], probably it's the one that we had the earliest partnership with and most recently we partnered with black women's organizations around the world, Brazil, the Caribbean, South Africa, particularly around HIV/AIDS [human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome]. So, so we've, you know, we've been doing a lot, we go to international women's conferences. We took a delegation, for example, to Kenya and to Beijing [China] so we see ourselves as participating in something we call a, global women's movement and we also see ourselves having linkages with black women who are doing similar work outside the U.S.$The next book was, this was in 1991, I'm talking about 'Words of Fire' ['Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought,' ed. Beverly Guy-Sheftall].$$Oh, 'Words of Fire,' okay.$$That came--$$That was later.$$Later on, okay.$$By this time, I mean, after doing the dissertation ['Daughters of Sorrow: Attitudes toward Black Women, from 1880-1920,' Beverly Guy-Sheftall], I, I also began to realize that there was a huge amount of, of material that we would put under the category of black feminist thought. And so what I decided to do, because I was totally tired of white feminist and black people saying that black women had not been involved in the production of feminist thought and I knew this was not true from the dissertation. So I decided to do an anthology which would trace the development of black feminist, started going all the way back to 1832 with Maria Stewart [Maria W. Stewart]. So that's what 'Words of Fire' is. It, it, and I could have had three volumes but I only could have one volume. So, I talked South End Press into, into publishing an anthology which would trace the evolution of black feminist thought, going from Maria Stewart to the present and so that's what that big anthology is and it's, one of the best things that I've done because it's used a lot in, in women's studies and black studies classrooms and so people don't any more have to go around making stupid statements like black women haven't been involved in feminism. And then I decided, with Rudolph Byrd [Rudolph P. Byrd], that I would do an anthology called, 'Traps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality' [eds. Rudolph P. Byrd and Beverly Guy-Sheftall] because I was also interested in, in making visible progressive pro-feminist writing by African American men. And so that's what 'Traps' is.$$Okay, and in 'Gender Talk' ['Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women's Equality in African American Communities,' Johnnetta Betsch Cole and Beverly Guy-Sheftall]--$$'Gender Talk,' Johnnetta [Johnnetta B. Cole] and I were interested in synthesizing the work that both of us had been involved in for most of our academic life, that is working African American studies and women's studies and what, and so what that book is, is a black feminist analysis of the situation, broadly speaking, of gender issues within the African American communities.$$And, and what year was--$$Nineteen ninety-five [1995].$$Nineteen ninety-five [1995] (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) And we worked on it from 19--we worked on it for five years and then it was published in 1995.