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Africa On My Mind

September 29, 2010 | by Wendy Leopold
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Johnnetta Betsch Cole, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art and former president of Spelman College, will deliver a lecture titled “Africa On My Mind” Tuesday, Oct. 12, at Northwestern University.

The free and public lecture is at 5:30 p.m. at McCormick Tribune Center Forum, 1870 Campus Drive, on the Evanston campus. Cole, an anthropologist by training, will talk about her connections to Africa during key periods of her professional life.

Cole, a Northwestern alumna, made history in 1987 when she became the first African-American woman to head Atlanta’s Spelman College. Upon her inauguration, Bill Cosby and his wife made a $20 million gift to the college, the largest single gift from individuals to any black institution of higher learning. In 2002, Cole was appointed president of Bennett College for Women.

At Northwestern, she will reflect on the images of Africa that she grew up with in the segregated South. She will discuss how those images changed as she earned her Ph.D. in anthropology and African studies at Northwestern University, participated in the civil rights and black power movements, helped establish black studies and women studies programs and, as president, led two historically black colleges for women.

“I am telling the story of my particular connection to the people and cultures of Africa because it can help us probe larger questions about what it might mean for Africa to be on all our minds,” says Cole. She also serves on the scholarly advisory board for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The author of several books and scores of scholarly articles, Cole is a fellow of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has been awarded more than 50 honorary degrees from colleges and universities around the country. Cole, who earned her Ph.D. at Northwestern in 1967, taught courses in anthropology, women’s studies and African American studies at Emory University, where she is professor emerita.

The Oct. 12 lecture is sponsored by the Program of African Studies and African American studies department in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. For more information, visit www.northwestern.edu/african-studies or call (847) 491-7325.

Topics: Campus Life