No Longer Invisible, An African American Woman’s Journey

Historians in the News
tags: African American history, womens history, Black Perspectives, African American womens history

Ida E. Jones is a historian and University Archivist at Morgan State University. She previously served as an assistant curator of manuscripts at Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. Jones is the author of several books on African Americans, primarily in Washington, D.C., the most recent of which is William Henry Jernagin in Washington, D.C.: Faith in the Fight for Civil Rights (The History Press, 2016). She conducts workshops for organizations interested in preserving their history and is an enthusiastic supporter of biography who seeks to promote micro-biographies about forgotten and intriguing people. Follow her on Twitter @Ida39J.

Dr. Rosalyn Terborg-Penn transcended teaching, researching, and mentoring. She was a force of nature. Witty, observant, biting, and inquisitive, she challenged, encouraged, and modeled the life of an activist-academic in the tradition of Africana scholars in general and the amphibious life of HBCU humanities scholars in particular. Her inspirations were scholars. Women and men such as Drs. Lorraine A. Williams, Iva Jones, Irene Diggs, Dorothy Porter Wesley, Benjamin A. Quarles, John Henrik Clarke, Arnold Taylor, Sylvia Jacobs, Janice Sumler Edmonds, Janet Sims-Wood, Elizabeth Clark-Lewis, Sharon Harley, and others formed her community and accountability cohort. These senior scholars established the idea of limitless possibilities and her contemporaries joined her at times while others innovated their own potentials in discovering those limitless areas. In concert with her generation, she enlarged the corpus of articles, monographs, syllabi, and potential fields of study. Dr. Terborg-Penn’s heart was not consumed with the pursuit of vain glory or reputation, but authentic scholarship and cultivation of future scholars who would speak truth to power, as informed, articulate, rigorous, and racially conscious thinker-activist teachers.

Dr. Terborg-Penn did not have her first African American woman instructor until graduate school. Dr. Elsie M. Lewis, a graduate of Fisk University, taught at George Washington and Howard University serving as a specialist in the history of the American Negro and of the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction. The field of African American history was not new but hidden from Dr. Terborg-Penn’s view during her early graduate school experience. In pursuit of more information on “scholars on Negro history” in Washington, D.C., she learned that historians are not truly objective because of internal prejudices. In that moment Dr. Terborg-Penn resolved to live her nationalistic scholarship — out loud, unapologetically, and historically sound.

Read entire article at Black Perspectives

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