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Activists and education leaders captivate, inspire

Robin Chenoweth
February 12, 2018

Invigorating the study of black Americans and culture all year long is a major crux of the College of Education and Human Ecology. With a focus on education, we asked our faculty and alumni, who are your education heroes? Who are the black thought-leaders and historical figures who shaped you?

Without exception, they named people with a common trait. Though distinguished, each of their heroes has put the average, ordinary black American in front of themselves. Their priority always was to bring parity in education to all children. And so, as we consider their inspiring work, they would have us remember for what, and whom, they were working.

Mary McLeod Bethune started a school in Florida — (Bethune-Cookman University) became one of the first historically black colleges and universities that still exists and is still important. She was on the kitchen cabinet for Eleanor Roosevelt. When she and Mrs. Roosevelt got together, she would answer her, ‘Yes, Eleanor.’ This was in the late 1930s and early 1940s — a time when we had not had the civil rights movement. For a black woman to be publicly acknowledged by the first lady was unprecedented. She provided an opportunity for African Americans to have a voice that went directly to the president’s administration. She was a voice for black people’s hopes and aspirations.”

Gladys Cooper Jennings, ’45 BS
2017 EHE Hall of Fame awardee


Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, Mary Jane McLeod Bethune and Marian Wright Edelman are all towering global figures. We all share the same birth state, South Carolina. In my humble opinion, they are some of the nation’s greatest Americans. Their ideals and works have helped shape a generation of people among the black community. Improving access to opportunities through education was central to their mission. They are admired by those who have had the opportunity to engage them, benefit from their efforts, and hear about their many accomplishments. They are all role models for me, as well as for many others in South Carolina and beyond.”

James L. Moore III
EHE Distinguished Professor of Urban Education, and Interim Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion and Interim Chief Diversity Officer, Ohio State


Asa G. Hilliard III, an educational psychologist with a long and distinguished career, had a positive impact on my commitment to urban education. He was an engaging speaker who believed that all children were capable of achieving excellence. His focus on minority achievement, African-centered curriculum, urban education and public policy were only some of his contributions to the scholarly literature. Most of all, he was a “formidable catalyst for social change” in education and society.”

Antoinette Miranda
William H. and Laceryjette V. Casto Professor of Interprofessional Education


Rudine Sims Bishop, professor emerita of education from Ohio State. Her seminal research Shadow and Substance: Afro-American Experience in Contemporary Children's Fiction (1982), paved the way for a deeper and wider study of multicultural children’s literature.”

Ruth Lowery
Associate Chair of Teaching and Learning and Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults


“I wrote about Ida B. Wells-Barnett in my dissertation on "Ordinary Theologies of Black Female Principals." One of the goals was to explore spirituality and its role in educational practice, particularly social justice. Before becoming the editor of Free Speech, Ida B. Wells-Barnett began her career working for social change initially to call others to the faith. However, she also became a leader in ending lynching in America. In her seminal speech, “The Requisites of True Leadership,” Wells-Barnett discusses her vision for social change and calls the community to show leadership in mobilizing others for social change. She is such an inspiration because she wanted others to link their spirituality with their life and work.”

Noelle W. Arnold
Associate Dean, EHE Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement and Associate Professor of Educational Administration


"W.E.B. Du Bois is one of my favorite educators and one of the most impactful sociologists to have ever lived. I admire his long list of significant scholarly contributions – my favorite being The Souls of Black Folk. However, I am just as impressed, if not more, by his hands-on approach to working with and on behalf of black people in the United States and beyond.

Malik Henfield, ’06 PhD
Associate Professor and School Counseling Program Coordinator – University of San Francisco


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