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Faculty Inaugural Symposium

Faculty Inaugural Symposium

Equality - Black Women Mapping the City

Spelman College, The Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Academic Center
350 Spelman Lane, SW, Atlanta, GA 30314-4399

View the April symposium schedule.
View the September symposium details.

In 1881, recognizing the value of their labor, bodies and humanity, Black washerwomen in Atlanta, Georgia, organized a city-wide strike and refused to work until they received a living wage.

The washerwomen's strike was a part of a larger national movement of Black women workers and activists, whose labor actions crossed --  in sometimes complicated ways -- class and gender lines by garnering the support of Black men and Black middle-class allies. 

Harriet P. Giles and Sophia B. Packard, two white missionaries and lifelong committed partners, entered these striking Black women's Atlanta.

Harriet P. Giles and Sophia B. Packard entered an Atlanta of Black women planning, writing, and organizing for the education of Black girls and women.

Harriet P. Giles and Sophia B. Packard, harboring the racial attitudes of their century, entered a Black woman’s city of agitation and resistance to racial and sexual violence, labor exploitation and daily assaults to their dignity.

They entered the city of Spelman’s first graduation class of six Black girls and women -- an Atlanta where Black women’s writing, thinking, reading, and organizing reinforced Black women’s refusal to have their labor defined by late 19th century capitalism.

All of these 1881 women, well acquainted with the day-to-day cruelties of injustice in their lives, worked toward new possibilities and asked:

What does equality look like? Sound like? Feel like?
Who and what are its imposters? How do we imagine equality when its opposite seems so normal?

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., Spelman College's 10th President, writes that many of the injustices the Black women of Atlanta confronted in 1881 remain with us today and "undercut and corrode the values that matter to us as 21st century Black women."

Equality, the theme chosen by President Campbell, will guide and shape the inaugural symposium and ongoing conversations, planning, meeting, reading, and risk-taking across campus and throughout the academic year.  President Campbell’s inauguration begins a year of recommitment to Black women's intellectual and activist history and resistance as it threads its way through the 21st century.

So on April 8, 2016, in the spirit and tradition of all of those 1881 women, we gather and craft shared cause as 21st century women who also write, think, read, agitate, document, excavate, curate, create, resist, map and (re)map wherever they are. Our focus today is Atlanta, Detroit and New Orleans, but the tradition of Black women’s resistance transcends time and borders.

We will gather for generations of Black women and girls to come.

Mikia Frazier, C'2019, Early Childhood Development; The Story of Us
Stacey Riddick, C'2019, Biology; The Story of Us
Tiana Opara, C'2019, Biology; The Story of Us
Shekinah Kinlow, C'2019, Early Childhood Development; The Story of Us
Charissa Threat, Assistant Professor, History
Candice Jenkins, C'96, English
Beverly Guy-Sheftall, C'66, Professor, Comparative Women’s Studies
Mona Taylor Phillips, C'76, Sociology and Anthropology; Interdisciplinary Big Question Colloquium The Story of Us
Faculty Symposium Committee
Introduction to Curatorial Studies
(Tera Hunter, To Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors after the Civil War, 1997)


View symposium schedule.


View symposium speakers list.


View symposium committee list.