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Dorothy Roberts

Law Professor Dorothy E. Roberts was born in 1956. In 1977, she graduated from Yale College, magna cum laude, where she was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Three years later, in 1980, Roberts graduated from Harvard Law School with her J.D., and for the next year she served as a law clerk for Hon. Constance Baker Motley in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. After her admission to the New York State Bar in 1981, Roberts worked as an associate in the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison until 1988.

From 1998 to 1994, Roberts was an Associate Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark, and from 1994 to 1998, she was a Professor of Law. While there, she served as the Faculty Graduation Speaker in both 1992 and 1996; visiting Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1994; fellow at the Harvard University Program in Ethics and the Professions from 1994 to 1995; and as visiting professor at Northwestern University School of Law in 1997. In 1998, she joined the faculty of Northwestern School of Law with a joint appointment as a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research; in 2002, she was named the Kirkland & Ellis Professor at the Northwestern University School of Law. While at Northwestern, Roberts served as visiting professor at Stanford Law School in 1998; as a Fulbright Fellow at the Centre for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad & Tobago from 2002 to 2003; and as the Bacon-Kilkenny Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Fordham University School of Law in 2006.

Recipient of the 1998 Radcliffe Graduate Society Medal and the 1999 Freedom of Choice Award from the Chicago Abortion Fund, Roberts published her first book, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, in 1997. The book earned her a 1998 Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America. In 2001, she published her second book, Shattered Bonds: The Color Of Child Welfare, which received research awards from the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community and the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. Recipient of the 2007 Leadership Award from the Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers, in 2009 Roberts earned the Family Defender Award from the Family Defense Center and the YWomen Leadership Award from the YWCA Evanston/North Shore.

Roberts was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 27, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.104

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/27/2010

Last Name

Roberts

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Harvard Law School

Yale University

Evanston Township High School

Beulah Shoesmith Elementary School

Cairo American College

First Name

Dorothy

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

ROB22

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

I Can Do All Things Through Christ That Strengthens Me.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Pennsylvania

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/8/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Philadelphia

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Grilled Haddock

Short Description

Law professor Dorothy Roberts (1956 - ) was the Kirkland & Ellis Professor at the Northwestern University School of Law and the author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty.

Employment

Northwestern University Law School

Rutgers University School of Law-Newark

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Fordham University School of Law

Favorite Color

Blue

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dorothy Roberts' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dorothy Roberts lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dorothy Roberts describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dorothy Roberts describes her mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dorothy Roberts talks about her Jamaican ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dorothy Roberts describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dorothy Roberts describes her father's personality and interests

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her father's study of interracial marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dorothy Roberts describes her grandparents' reactions to her parents' interracial marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her father's education

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Dorothy Roberts describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her home inChicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Dorothy Roberts remembers her family's activities

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her home life

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Dorothy Roberts describes the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Dorothy Roberts remembers Beulah Shoesmith Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dorothy Roberts recalls the influence of her teachers at Beulah Shoesmith Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her early interest in academics

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dorothy Roberts lists her sisters

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dorothy Roberts describes her early political activism

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dorothy Roberts talks about her family's time in Egypt

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her family's move to Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her experiences at Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her early aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her activities at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Dorothy Roberts describes her peers at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her activism at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her classmate, Hugh Gross

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Dorothy Roberts talks about the development of her research and writing skills

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her decision to attend the Harvard Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her involvement in the National Black Law Students Association

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dorothy Roberts describes her classmates at the Harvard Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her clerkship under Judge Constance Baker Motley

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her experience clerking for Constance Baker Motley

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dorothy Roberts recalls a trademark case at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dorothy Roberts remembers the case of Moe v. Dinkins

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dorothy Roberts talks about the role of legal clerks

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dorothy Roberts recalls joining the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Dorothy Roberts describes her casework at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Dorothy Roberts talks about her family

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dorothy Roberts recalls the development of her interest in reproductive rights

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dorothy Roberts recalls teaching at the Rutgers Law School in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dorothy Roberts recalls teaching at the Northwestern University School of Law in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dorothy Roberts describes her article on black reproductive rights in the Harvard Law Review

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dorothy Roberts talks about her book, 'Killing the Black Body'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dorothy Roberts describes her scholarship on reproductive justice

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her fellowship from the Harvard Program in Ethics and the Professions

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her visiting professorship at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Dorothy Roberts describes her research at Northwestern University

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Dorothy Roberts describes her research on the child welfare system

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Dorothy Roberts describes her research on biomedicine

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Dorothy Roberts describes the myths about the biology of race

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dorothy Roberts talks about the definition of race

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dorothy Roberts talks about the perpetuation of racial inequality

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dorothy Roberts talks about racial discrimination in the foster care system

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her position as the Kirkland and Ellis professor at Northwestern University School of Law

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dorothy Roberts remembers her Fulbright Fellowship

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dorothy Roberts recalls her research on gender with Rhoda Reddock

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Dorothy Roberts describes her time as the Bacon Kilkenny Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at the Fordham University Law School

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Dorothy Roberts describes her involvement with the film 'Silent Choices'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Dorothy Roberts reflects upon her career

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Dorothy Roberts shares her advice to future generations

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Dorothy Roberts reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Dorothy Roberts describes her hopes for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Dorothy Roberts reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Dorothy Roberts reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Dorothy Roberts reflects upon her family

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Dorothy Roberts shares a message to her children

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Dorothy Roberts reflects upon her faith

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Dorothy Roberts narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

4$1

DATitle
Dorothy Roberts describes her early political activism
Dorothy Roberts talks about the definition of race
Transcript
Now did you and your family attend church?$$Yeah. Gro- there was a St. Paul's Episcopal Church [St. Paul and the Redeemer Episcopal Church, Chicago, Illinois] that we attended. You know, I don't remember though, I actually remember more so going to the civil rights meetings there then going to church services there. And I can't quite recall how they were related, but I do remember, even without my parents [Iris White Roberts and Robert Roberts], going to meetings at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.$$What year would've this--this been?$$This would've been in the '60s [1960s], in the later 1960s, yeah. But I remember meetings about, you know, getting reports about the Civil Rights Movement in the South. Also I remember going to meetings that had to do with the Blackstone Rangers [Black P. Stone Nation]. 'Cause the--the gang, the Blackstone Rangers was present in our neighborhood. I mean they--present in the sense that we heard about them and I remember sometimes they would leave, not a lot of graffiti, but some graffiti on trees on--on our block. And I--I recall there was an effort to try to make peace with the Blackstone Rangers. I--I remember attending a meeting with members of the Blackstone Rangers when I was in elementary school [Beulah Shoesmith Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois]. My--my parents didn't--weren't there, but I, you know, we were so independent (laughter) when I was growing up. I did a lot of things without my--a--a lot with my parents, you know, we had these family activities that had to do more with travel and culture and museums, and that kind of thing. And then there were these political activities I participated in that it was just easy to walk to from my house. And I--and I recall St. Paul's Episcopal Church being a center of that.$$Now you mentioned you got reports on the Blackstone Rangers--$$Yeah.$$--were those reports coming from the police department [Chicago Police Department] or were they?$$No this was more had to do with sort of some social justice work where the--the aim was to--all I can think is peacemaking kind of work. We--well, but also, you know, just growing up in the neighborhood you'd hear--well when you said, maybe police repo- you know, in the newspapers you would her what was going on in surrounding neighborhoods. I mean I--there wasn't--it wasn't as if there were members of the Blackstone Rangers on our block, but close by, you know, in the South Side of Chicago [Illinois].$$So you were becoming politically active at a very young age?$$Yeah, not that real politically active, but politicized and attending meetings. I didn't go on a bus to the south, you know, or anything like that, but I--I did feel at a young age that I wanted to be aware of what was going on politically. I can remember subscribing to the Blackstone Rang- not the, but the Black Panther Party newspaper in elementary school. I know this was before, when we were living in Hyde Park [Chicago, Illinois] before we moved to Egypt. So it was sometime in elementary school and I can remember my--it coming to the house and my mother telling me I had to cancel the subscription. Because, not because she disagreed with the politics, but because she felt it would bring our house under suspicion by the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation]. She was--my mother was very aware of--of ways that, you know, you could get in trouble (laughter) and she didn't want--didn't want us to get in trouble. So I had to cancel it with the, after the first issue came (laughter) to the house.$We were talking a little bit about biomedicine and how it's being used to define race to a certain extent. But you've kind of taken the position that it's really social and environmental issues that really talk about what race is, could you elaborate a little bit more on that?$$Well, I define race as a political category to govern people. I think there's a good historical record to show that it was invented as a political system to both morally justify slavery, but also to help govern these groups of people who are supposed to be masters and slaves or colonizers and the colonized. And race is a way of, of demarcating those people in those--with that political status. It's not a natural category, so who, who is black or who is white is not natural, it's who in this political system is considered superior or the master or the colonizer or who has certain political privileges and who is black is who is considered to be in the group that can be enslaved or colonized or denied certain political privileges. That's how you tell, (laughter) you know, who's in what race, whoever is defined to be in those categories. You can't determine it in any natural way. And so that's the meaning of race. It--it's not a biological category. It, it, it, you know, in identifying people it refers to biological traits, but the category, itself, isn't a biological category. And so then when there's certain biological consequences of belonging or being assigned to a particular race, those have to do with the impact of social status or social conditions on the body because you belong to that category. It's not natural, so the reason why blacks die earlier from all sorts of common diseases isn't because they're naturally prone to die of those diseases. It's because they suffer from the disadvantages of being categorized in a particular racial category. And you know, racism has huge consequences for people's lives and some of those consequences are biological consequences. So I think it's extremely dangerous to now look at those consequences of racism that has to do with belonging to a political category and the social and political implications of that, and now saying it's just natural. Because if it's natural, then you don't have to change society to address the consequences. If it's natural, either you say well that's just tough luck, you know, that--God made it that way, you know, which is what people said for a long time. Or, you say, well we can develop some biological remedy for it, which is what I think a large part of the answer being given us today. But that's extremely different from saying we have to change the social inequality that is based on race or that race supports. I think the inequality comes first and race is the way of supporting it. And it's, it's not a natural division that produces inequality. And I, I think that that is extremely important to understand that distinction and, and for our investments in science and social policy to be geared toward addressing the social inequalities that are supported by race.

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

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/1/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

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

Timing Pairs
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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

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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.