Alumnae: Alumnae Profiles

Alumnae Profiles: Roxana Walker-Canton, C'91

Award-winning independent filmmaker and video installation artist Roxana Walker-Canton, C’91, is the producer of a new documentary titled, “Living Thinkers: An Autobiography of Black Women in the Ivory Tower.”

The documentary examines the intersection of race, class, and gender in the education narratives of Black women academics.

Released in 2013, the film is now being distributed by Women Make Movies and is included in its 2014 new releases catalog. Part of a larger project featuring interviews with 100 Black women who work on college campuses, “Living Thinkers” features eight of those women, including Spelman professors Beverly Guy-Sheftall, C’66, Tasha Inniss, and retired mathematics professor Sylvia Bozeman. Walker-Canton's daughter, Imani, is a member of the incoming class of 2018.

Bringing History to Life

Walker-Canton installed Living Thinkers - Harriet Jacobs' Attic and Living Thinkers - Harriet Jacobs' Attic 2, two video installations connecting contemporary Black women's education narratives to the 19th century slave narrative written by Harriet Jacobs.

Her last documentary about post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans titled Belly of the Basin won First Place for Documentary at the Hollywood Black Filmmakers Festival 2008 and screened at numerous festivals and universities across the country.  

She has received numerous grants and has presented her work nationally and internationally at festivals, conferences and universities. She teaches Documentary Production, Screenwriting and African American Cinema.  She is married to history professor David A. Canton and has three children, Imani, Kefentse, and Montsho.

Living Thinkers: An Autobiography of Black Women in the Ivory Tower

Living Thinkers examines the intersection of race, class, and gender in the experiences of contemporary Black women professors and administrators through education narratives from girlhood to the present. In the last part of the 20th century, more Black women entered the university, secured higher-ranking administrative positions, and achieved tenure and promotion. But the progress continues to be slow.

As outsiders within, many 21st century Black women find academia to have a “chilly climate,” where they are fewer in number as faculty and top administrators, but in greater numbers as lower ranking staff in housekeeping and in food services. 

In spite of continued struggles, Black women use the university to find personal identity, give voice to global and community issues facing the black community at large and Black women more specifically, and make significant contributions to American intellectual history. Their presence and contributions are rarely acknowledged and valued and the image of Black women as intellectuals, for many, deemed incomprehensible.  Living Thinkers reveals the travails, the disappointments and the triumphs of becoming Black women professors in the U.S.