William and Camille Cosby Endowed Professors
Shirley Franklin | Alison Bernstein
M. Jacqui Alexander
Lisa Farrington, Ph.D. | Nawal El Saadawi, Ph.D.
Pearl Cleage | Patricia McFadden |
Renita J. Weems, Ph.D.| William Darity, Ph.D. |
Bernice Johnson Reagon, Ph.D. |
Shelia Walker, Ph.D. | Ayoka Chenzira
Two-term Atlanta Mayor and Cosby Chair in the
The Ford Foundation and Cosby Chair of humanities
M. Jacqui Alexander, Ph.D., is the Cosby Endowed Chair in the Humanities and Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Toronto. Animated by anti-colonial, feminist, women of color and queer movements in different parts of the world, her scholarship has addressed the centrality of (hetero)sexuality to the project of nation building; the pedagogical importance of teaching for justice; the need for a critical interdisciplinarity; and the sacred dimensions of women’s experience. She has lectured extensively in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and North America; and serves on the board of the Future of Minorities Project whose ongoing relationship with HBCU’s is grounded here at Spelman.
Her most recent publication, Pedagogies of the Sacred: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory and the Sacred, has garnered transnational attention. While at Spelman, she has been a guest lecturer in courses on Caribbean History and Black Women’s Writing; and participated in a panel discussion on the current museum exhibit, Dreaming of an Island : ‘The Sacred, The Secular and the Sexual: Cuba and Resistance Social Movements.’ Her courses examine the lives of women in ways that are both comparative and interdisciplinary: ‘Indigenous, Black and Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars,’ and (in Spring 2009) ‘Migrations of the Sacred,’ which maps the movement of African spiritual practices in the diaspora, particularly in the Southern United States.
Her culminating event as Cosby Chair will include the premier screening of the documentary, ‘When the Spirits Dance Mambo,’ a panel discussion, and a cyberquilting exchange between students at Spelman and at the University of Toronto. It is scheduled for Friday, April 17, 2009.
Lisa E. Farrington, Ph.D., is an accomplished curator, author, and art historian. She has earned numerous academic degrees, including a Ph.D. and Master of Philosophy degrees from the CUNY Graduate Center in New York, an M.A. in art history from American University, a B.F.A. magna cum laude from Howard University, and a Regents Degree in painting and illustration from New York's School of Art & Design.
Dr. Farrington worked for many years at the Museum of Modern Art and, since 1994, has been senior art historian at Parsons School of Design (the fine arts division of The New School), where she teaches Western and Non-Western Art, Haitian Art and Vodou Culture, African-American Art, Women’s Art, and Race and Gender studies. She has also taught the on-site museum art history course at Parsons Atelier in Paris, France.
Dr. Farrington is a Mellon, Magnet, U.S. State Department, and Ford Foundation Fellow, and a consultant for The College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) Art History program. She has published ten books and a dozen scholarly essays in the past decade, including two monographs on artist Faith Ringgold, and a 2005 textbook for Oxford University Press entitled “ Creating Their Own Image: The History of African-American Women Artists,” which recently won three major academic literary awards, including the American Library Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to Publishing, the American Association of Black Women Historians Annual Book Award, and the Richard Wright/Zora Neale Hurston Foundation nomination for non-fiction.
Nawal El Saadawi, Ph.D. (To be posted)
Pearl Cleage, C'71, is an Atlanta-based writer whose works include four novels: What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day (Avon Books, 1997), I Wish I Had A Red Dress (Morrow/Avon, 2001), Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do, (Ballantine/One World, August, 2003), and Baby Brother Blues, (Ballantine/One World, February, 2006); a dozen plays, including A Song for Coretta, Flyin' West, Blues for an Alabama Sky, Hospice and Bourbon at the Border; two books of essays, Mad at Miles: A Blackwoman's Guide to Truth and Deals With the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot; and a book of short fiction, The Brass Bed and Other Stories (Third World Press).
She is also a performance artist, collaborating frequently with her husband, Zaron W. Burnett, Jr., under the title Live at Club Zebra. The two have performed sold out shows at both the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and The National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, Georgia.
She is a frequent contributor to anthologies and has been featured recently in Proverbs for the People, Contemporary African American Fiction, edited by Tracy Price-Thompson and TaRessa Stovall and in Mending the World, Stories of Family by Contemporary Black Writers, edited by Rosemarie Robotham.
She is a contributing writer to ESSENCE Magazine, and in 1998, her novel, What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day, was an Oprah Book Club pick and spent nine weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.
Patricia McFadden, born in Swaziland in 1952, is an internationally renowned radical presence in African feminism. She received her first degree from the University of Botswana and Swaziland in politics and administration, with economics and sociology as minors; a master’s degree in sociology from Dar es Salaam University, Tanzania; and a doctorate from Warwick University in the United Kingdom (1987).
McFadden, whose teaching career spans three continents, has served as a professor at U.S. colleges and universities such as at Cornell, Spelman, Syracuse, and Smith. She served as international dean at the International Women’s University (IFU) from 1998 – 2000 in Hannover.
McFadden has worked in the African and global women’s movements for the past 30 years, writing, conceptualizing, teaching, training, advocating and publishing as editor of the "Southern African Feminist Review" from 1995 – 2000, and as a program officer in the Southern African Regional Institute for Policy Studies ( SARIPS) in Harare, Zimbabwe, from 1993 – 2005. She also taught in the Masters in Social Policy (MPS) program offered by SARIPS for the past seven years, and was an adjunct professor for the Syracuse Study Abroad program from 1994 – 2000.
McFadden’s main areas of intellectual inquiry are: sexuality, reproductive and sexual health and rights (especially for young women), and identity, violation and citizenship for African women. She has presented numerous papers at universities, conferences and seminars internationally in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Namibia, South Africa, Ghana, Djibouti , Kenya, Uganda, Brazil, China, Germany Ethiopia, the United Kingdom and others.
More recently she has been working as a ‘feminist consultant,’ supporting women in creating institutionally sustainable feminist spaces within Southern Africa. The most recent initiative is the establishment of a women’s leadership center in Windhoek, Namibia . McFadden says that her priority is to provide conceptual, intellectual and programmatic support to African feminists in envisioning and supporting programs that draw on the radical political energies of African women as writers and as citizens across the continent.
Her publications include: ‘Challenging HIV and AIDS: Resistance and Advocacy in the Lives of Black Women in Southern Africa,’ 'War Through a Feminist Lens,’‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Positioning Feminism in the ‘Africa Debate,’ and ‘Patriarchy, Sexuality and Globalization.’
As the Endowed Cosby Chair in the Social Sciences in the Women’s Research and Resource Center at Spelman College, Dr. McFadden is teaching a course on “African Feminisms in a Globalizing World.”
Renita J. Weems, Ph.D.,
is passionate about her vocation as a teacher of spiritual insight. Whether it's through the books and articles she writes, the sermons she preaches, the classes she teaches, the workshops and seminars she gives, or the lectures she offers, she understands her work as that of a midwife of inner wisdom, helping women and men tap into the inner wisdom and the spiritual intelligence they already possess.
A former contributing writer to Essence Magazine, Dr. Renita Weems is the author of several widely acclaimed books on women's spirituality and wholeness: Just (1987) and I Asked for Intimacy (1993), and Showing Mary: How Women Can Share Prayers, Wisdom, and the Blessings of God (2003). Her special talent is in drawing life inspirational wisdom from stories in the Bible about the triumphs and failures of ordinary people.
Prior to serving as a William and Camille Cosby Visiting Professor of Humanities at Spelman, Weems taught from 1987-2004 on the divinity faculty at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN as a professor of Hebrew Bible.
A guest speaker for numerous national gatherings of religious, civic, and sorority organizations, local churches, community wide events, and radio and television programs, Weems is also in demand as a speaker, preacher, and workshop leader. Her work as a scholar and a religious thinker has led to invitations to serve as a panelist for Bill Moyer's 1995 PBS award-winning Genesis Project, for various A&E and Hallmark cable programs on women in the Bible, and more recently on FlashPoints with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill on the role of religion in politics, government, and public life.
Dr. Weems has been particularly active lately speaking to professional women's organizations about women's spiritual values and support systems, juggling family and work, work and spirituality and women finding a balance between their spiritual values and their professional aspirations. She was a speaker on the religion panel at the 2003 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans and the featured luncheon speaker for the 2002 National Medical Association Women's Council Luncheon meeting in Honolulu.
Ordained an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal tradition, Dr. Weems has written about the waxing and waning of faith all believers endure on the spiritual journey. Her 1999 book Listening for God: A Minister's Journey through Silence and Doubt (Simon & Schuster) won the Religious Communicators' Council's prestigious 1999 Wilbur Award for excellence in communicating spiritual values to the secular media. Her undergraduate studies were done at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and her Master's and Ph.D. studies at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.
Finally, Dr. Weems, who lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter, is especially proud of her electronic newsletter "Something Within" (www.somethingwithin.com) which allows her to keep in touch with readers interested in exploring women's values and interested in conversations about faith, love, values, and inner wisdom, and other topics of interest to what Dr. Weems likes to call "thinking women of faith."
William Darity, Jr.
a distinguished scholar and economist, taught the course, Racial and Ethnic Economic Inequality: A Cross-National Perspective
while at Spelman. One of Dr. Darity's desires was to encourage students at the College to pursue doctoral degrees. "This is an institution that has a lot of tradition in producing very talented scholars," says Dr. Darity. "I really would like to encourage as many of the students here as possible to consider careers in the academy." His course challenged students to explore the causes and consequences of racial and ethnic division from a comparative, cross-national perspective.
Dr. Darity's research and teaching interests include racial and ethnic economic inequality, North-South theories of development and trade, the Atlantic slave trade and the Industrial Revolution, as well as the social psychological effects of exposure to unemployment. He is the Cary C. Boshamer Professor of Economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, research professor of Public Policy Studies at Duke University and director of the Institute of African-American Research.
His books include Economics, Economists, and Expectations: Microfoundations to Macroapplications (2004) coauthored with Warren Young and Robert Leeson, and a volume coedited with Ashwini Deshpande entitled Boundaries of Clan and Color: Transnational Comparisons of Inter-Group Disparity (2003) both published by Routledge. He has published or edited 10 books and published more than 125 articles in professional journals.
Darity has a B.A. (magna cum laude) in economics and political science from Brown University (1974) and a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1978). He was named as a Marshall Scholar upon completion of undergraduate school.
Darity lives with his family in Durham, NC where he plays harmonica in a local blues band, occasionally serves as a youth sports coach, and enjoys reading science and speculative fiction.
Professorship 2002 - 2004
Bernice Johnson Reagon, Ph.D., an internationally known producer, composer and recording artist, is the founder and spirit behind the Grammy Award-nominated a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey and the Rock. The group's repertoire draws upon the twin foundations of Dr. Reagon's experiences - her activism through song in the Civil Rights Movement and her commitment to sharing the historical legacy of the African-American struggle for freedom and justice in America.
The Spelman alumna (C'70) is an acclaimed music and cultural historian, and a specialist in African American oral, performance and protest traditions. Recognized as a celebrated singer of early congregational and traditional gospel music who raised her voice in song as a civil rights freedom singer, Reagon worked as a folklorist, program director and curator for the Smithsonian Institute from 1974 until 1993. She has served as curator emeritus at the Smithsonian since 1993, and helped develop Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions, a Peabody Award-winning radio program for the Smithsonian and National Public Radio.
As a composer of documentary film scores and a leading force in the Smithsonian Institution's work in African-American history, Reagon was among six distinguished Americans tapped for the prestigious $250,000 Heinz Award for the Arts and Humanities in 2003.
In addition to developing research and expositions chronicling African-American culture, Reagon enjoyed a notable career as a professor of history at American University from 1993 to 2002.
Shelia Walker, Ph.D., is a professor of anthropology and a formidable author of several well-known academic books and numerous articles on the African Diaspora, including the book "African Roots/American Culture: Africa in the Creation of the Americas," and accompanying video "Scattered Africa: The African Diaspora in the Americas." The book and video are based upon the international conference, "The African Diaspora and The Modern World," which she organized in 1996 in conjunction with the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Dr. Walker was the first Cosby Endowed Professor in the Humanities, and in the fall of 2004 she will join the Spelman College faculty as Director of the popular African Diaspora and the World Program.
Previously, Walker served as a professor of anthropology and the Annabel Irion Centennial Professor in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. She was also the university's former Director of the Center for African and African American Studies (1991-2001), and creator of a doctoral program in the Anthropology of the African Diaspora at the University of Texas at Austin.
In the spirit of the African proverb, "She who learns teaches," Dr. Walker has taught in the Graduate School of Education and the Department of African American Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, and in the Department of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. She has lectured widely and published several scholarly books and numerous popular articles about Africa and the African Diaspora. She has also participated in nationally and internationally televised documentaries on these subjects. She currently serves as director of Spelman College's extremely popular African Diaspora and the World program.
Dr. Walker received her bachelor of arts in political science from Bryn Mawr College, and studied African anthropology and politics at the Sorbonne and the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris. She holds a doctorate from the University of Chicago in Anthropology.
An award-winning filmmaker and digital media artist whose works span features, documentaries, performance and experimental narratives, Chenzira is one of the first African-American women to write, produce and direct a 35mm feature film, "Alma's Rainbow" (Billboard Top 40). She is also recognized as the first African-American woman animator.
She is the founder and CEO of the Brooklyn, New York based production and distribution company Red Carnelian Films, which is dedicated to bringing poignant and entertaining stories about Black life and culture to the screen through its Black Indie Classics Collection (BLIC). Additionally, the company distributes a collection of award-winning films by emerging African writers and directors through its New Directions Series.
Trained in dance, theatre, painting, photography, music, film, video and education, Chenzira received degrees from New York University and Columbia University/Teachers' College. Her films have appeared on American and European television and in numerous international film festivals. She has received many honors and awards for her work including the Sony Innovator Award for her early work with converging film, video and computer animation.
Several of her films have been translated into French and Japanese, and she has been commissioned to work on special films in Austria, England and Brazil. As an educator Chenzira has trained many people from around the world to make films, and she continues to work in Africa developing a new generation of filmmakers.
Chenzira co-created the graduate program in Media Arts Production at The City College of New York, the first graduate program of its kind at a public institution that houses state-of-the-art production and post-production equipment; and served as the first William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Chair in the Arts at Spelman College.
At the close of her term as a Cosby Chair, Chenzira presented "Flight of the Mind", a documentary that looked at the creative work that she produced at Spelman from 2001-2003, as well as her educational projects in South Africa and Nigeria.
In explaining the significance of Flight of the Mind, Chenzira says, "The Cosby gift was historic and it has allowed Spelman College to create an opportunity for artists/scholars to explore new ground, and to have our lives further enriched through interacting with faculty, staff, students and the Atlanta community. As an artist, it is important for me not only to create work, but to have it seen and discussed."
In 2003, she joined the Spelman College faculty and created the Digital Moving Image Salon. She currently serves as the director of the Salon and develops stories and productions for digital platforms.