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University Libraries to host roundtable of OHIO faculty with focus on Black women writers

Ohio University Libraries will host an in-person roundtable discussing Black women writers titled, “Honoring the Legacy of Early Black Women Writers: A Faculty Roundtable,” on Tuesday, March 21 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in Alden Library’s Friends Room 319. The event is free, and an online format is also available.

The roundtable was inspired by the Libraries’ recent acquisition of a signed and rare first edition copy of Anna Julia Cooper’s book, “A Voice from the South: By a Black Woman of the South,” which is a series of essays on topics, such as race and gender, and is seen as one of the first articulations of Black feminism. Other authors that will be highlighted during the event are Sojourner Truth, Phillis Wheatley and Harriet Ann Jacobs, among others. Relevant rare books will also be on display for attendees to view.

Miriam Intrator, special collections librarian and co-coordinator of the event, said that the roundtable not only highlights early Black women writers but also serves as a Women’s History Month event. She mentions that although some of the women featured were prominent voices in areas such as the history of literature, publishing and social justice, not all of them are well-known names, even within academia. The roundtable event helps serve as a way for women, specifically Black women, to be recognized despite being historically underrepresented.

“Women and particularly women of color have been and continue to be marginalized, if not entirely excluded, across society, including in academia and in the texts and contributions that are most commonly taught,” Intrator said. “By collecting the works of these influential writers, we seek to help ensure the long-term preservation of their important contributions and to increase access to and usage of their texts.”

Included in the roundtable are five OHIO faculty members from multiple disciplines giving presentations about Cooper and other early Black women writers that are represented in the Libraries’ rare book collection. Those five include Mariana Dantas, associate professor of history, Theda Gibbs Grey, associate professor of teacher education, Uzoma Miller, visiting professor of African American studies, Myrna Perez Sheldon, associate professor of classics and of women’s, gender and sexuality studies and Marilyn Atlas, professor in English.

When asked about why they believed both the roundtable and highlighting of minoritized writers are important, some of the speakers had their own unique perspectives. Atlas mentioned how different materials can house history and the past.

“I think part of the importance of this roundtable is to remind ourselves and each other that books matter, that artifacts matter and that we should study them and honor them,” Atlas said.

Dantas touched on how in today’s climate, it’s important to analyze what texts are being taught in the American school systems.

“It is important to recognize that texts by Black women writers are out there, that they were and continue to be influential, and that we can no longer leave them out of the American literary and intellectual canon,” she added.

Miller discussed how Black women have contributed many things to society, yet they are often forgotten and unappreciated.

“The Black women under review were philosophers, intellectuals, and pragmatists also, so they should not be deduced to passing footnotes only to be lost in society's collective imaginations,” Miller said.

lorraine wochna, subject librarian for the performing arts and co-coordinator of the event, shared how authors such as Phillis Wheatley, Mary Church Terrell and many other Black authors, still aren’t widely read or recognized despite their talents.

“There are so many important Black women writers whose voices are still not heard,” wochna noted.

For more information about the event, contact Miriam Intrator or lorraine wochna. To request accessibility accommodations, contact Jen Harvey, Library events coordinator.

March 3, 2023
Mimi Calhoun