African American Studies

University of Mississippi

Archive for the ‘news events’ Category

VIDEOS: Inaugural TedxUM Talks

Posted on: December 8th, 2015 by erabadie

Tedxum graphicThe University of Mississippi hosted its inaugural TEDx talks October 31, 2015 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The 9 a.m. event featured 10 brief lectures from university faculty members to showcase ideas worth spreading.

Marvin King

Marvin King

TEDxUM 2015 used the TED Talks conference format to bring together lecturers and other participants in a globally popular set of conferences run by the Sapling Foundation under the slogan “Ideas worth spreading.” Under the rules set by TED for the event, it will be open to only about 100 audience members this year, but organizers plan a much larger TEDxUM event for 2016.

“We believe it critical that Mississippi and the University of Mississippi, in particular, showcase the many ideas we have that are worth spreading,” said Marvin King, UM associate professor of political science and African American Studies. “We have incredible researchers and activists in our community, and the TED platform is among the best ways to make sure that Mississippi is a part of engaging discussions leading to real, positive change.”

Elizabeth Wicks

Elizabeth Wicks

“The event theme is In Plain Sight,” said TEDxUM organizer Elizabeth Wicks, a senior international studies and French major from Ocean Springs.

“It highlights the great minds that we have here on our campus and shows the world the amazing work being done in the Oxford area,” Wicks said. “In Plain Sight notes those aspects of life which are right before our eyes, yet must be illuminated in order to receive recognition.”

She said audience members were engaged by a diverse group of speakers and participated in interactive breakout sessions.

“The importance of an event such as TEDxUM on our campus cannot be understated,” Wicks said. “This will be the first event of its kind to occur at any university within the state of Mississippi and will be the second of its kind within the state as a whole. I believe that it will be an event that will better our community tremendously as well as show the world the talent and promise that we have here at Ole Miss.”

About 60 prospective faculty and staff lecturers were nominated to speak. A nine-member committee of five students and four faculty-staff members selected 10 speakers for TEDxUM 2015. Watch their presentations here:

Randy Wadkins
, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, discusses nanotechnology

Matthew Wilson, assistant professor of theatre arts, lectures on humor

Gregory Heyworth, associate professor of English, lectures on digital humanities

Laura Johnson, associate professor of psychology, lectures on cross-cultural engagement

David Rock, dean of the UM School of Education, discusses classroom technology

Marc Slattery, professor of pharmacognosy, talks about drug research from the ocean

Mitchell Robinson, of Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, discusses diversity and environmental activism

Cathy Janasie, research counsel for the National Sea Grant Law Center, lectures on water scarcity

Michèle Alexandre, professor of law and Leonard B. Melvin Lecturer in Law, talks about “The B Word”

Chris McCurdy, professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacology, lectures on natural products used to diagnose neural damage

VIDEO: University Commemorates 50 Years of Integration with Concert

Posted on: December 8th, 2015 by erabadie

It’s as much fun listening to George Dor talk about the upcoming 2012 Black History Month concert as it is hearing him perform, and that’s saying a lot.

On Feb. 23, audiences will have a chance to do both when Dor, associate professor of music at the University of Mississippi, joins several UM student ensembles to present a musical commemoration called “Celebrating 50 Years of Integration.”

The free public event is set for 7:30 p.m. in Nutt Auditorium. The program features performances by the African Drum and Dance Ensemble directed by Dor, the UM Steel Band directed Ricky Burkhead, associate professor of music, and the UM Jazz Ensemble directed by Michael Worthy, associate professor of music. The evening also features special performances by music graduate students Caline Waugh (soprano) of Jamaica and Fred Dunlap (percussionist) of North Carolina. Oxford resident Guelel Kumba, on vocals and guitar, rounds out the performers.

Dor, a native of Ghana, said he wanted to do something “truly special to mark the university’s 50th year of integration.”

“This is more than a celebration of black history; it’s a celebration of history, period,” he said. “When the University of Mississippi opened its doors (to minorities) in 1962, it offered hope for the entire state. I simply want to celebrate that hope and this university’s growth with song and music.”

And because Dor had a song in his heart, he decided to write an original composition about James Meredith, the man who opened doors at UM.

“Imaginative Reflections and Celebration” touts Meredith’s sacrifice and bravery, Dor said.

“Mr. Meredith was instrumental in making Ole Miss what it is today, an outstanding university opened to anyone who wants the best in higher education,” he said. “My composition is an acknowledgment of his sacrifice and is a small way to thank him for his dedication.”

Dunlap said he is proud to have been recruited to spotlight an African-American artist for this year’s Black History Month celebration.

“I was floored when Dr. Dor called and said he wanted to highlight a work by James H. Latimer and that he wanted me to perform,” said Dunlap, a native of Sanford, N.C. “Latimer’s ‘Variations on the Westminster Clock Theme’ is an outstanding composition. Its music and melody can truly be heard on pitch drums.”

Jeff Jackson, 2012 UM Humanities Teacher of the Year

Posted on: December 8th, 2015 by erabadie

Sociology professor to lecture on Mississippi poverty

Jeff Jackson. UM photo by Kevin Bain

Jeff Jackson. UM photo by Kevin Bain

An interest in the globalization of the developing world has earned a University of Mississippi professor a statewide honor.

Jeff Jackson, associate professor of sociology, has been named the 2012 Humanities Teacher of the Year at the University of Mississippi, and will give a lecture at 7 p.m. Thursday Nov. 8 in the Tupelo Room of Barnard Observatory. The event is free and open to the public.

His lecture, “Mississippi and the Global South: The Contemporary Paradox of Poverty Amid Plenty,” is an exploration of how inequality in Mississippi compares to other parts of the world and how the theoretical concept of the global South can help people overcome scholarly divides in the effort to understand the world-wide disparities that connect all of us.

The event is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and the Mississippi Humanities Council.

“The Humanities Teacher of the Year award recognizes Dr. Jackson’s outstanding work and his significant contributions to teaching,” said Glenn Hopkins, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

Each year, 30 awards are given, along with a check for $500, to a scholar in the humanities at every institution of higher learning in the state.

“The MHC believes that this is an important way to support humanities teachers, encouraging excellence in teaching while at the same time recognizing their research and other interests and bringing these myriad, often fascinating topics to public audiences; in other words, we want to promote interaction among professional humanists and a wide audience of Mississippians who can enjoy the fruits of their scholarship,” said Barbara Carpenter, executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council in Jackson.

JeffJacksonMHClectureposterJackson grew up in Wisconsin but considers Mississippi his home. He earned a bachelor’s degree  in sociology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas.

While living in Cuernavaca, Mexico for a year, he worked as an intern for the Center for Global Education at Augsburg College and developed a greater interest in teaching and in conducting research on the relationship between the United States and the developing world. He was a Mellon Fellow in Latin American Sociology and spent a year conducting fieldwork on the international development profession in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Jackson moved to Oxford in 1999 and teaches courses at UM on race and ethnicity, globalization and international development.

In 2007, he published “The Globalizers: Development Workers in Action” (Johns Hopkins Studies in Globalization), which examines how development assistance promotes globalization in the developing world.

His research projects include a study of new donors of development aid such as China and Brazil, a study of the history of mascots at UM and a project on the concept of “the global South” as it relates to Mississippi, which is the topic for his lecture on Thursday and is based on collaborative work with the UM Interdisciplinary Faculty Working Group on the Global South. The group was formed in 2005 and is made up of faculty in English, Southern studies, history and sociology.

“The university has been very supportive of our Global South Working Group,” Jackson said. “I’m really looking forward to sharing some of our work with the larger university community.”

Jackson said he was very surprised and honored to have been chosen for the award.

“I was completely shocked; it’s really such a tremendous honor,” he said.  “The Mississippi Humanities Council does such important work to promote the humanities and the humanistic social sciences throughout the state and to be recognized for this award is very humbling. I just want to thank all of my UM students and colleagues with whom I’ve collaborated over the years. I owe them a lot for providing such a supportive environment in which to teach and conduct research.”

Sociology Professors Launch Racial Climate Study

Posted on: December 8th, 2015 by erabadie


A monument honoring James Meredith, the first black student at the University of Mississippi, stands on campus. Photo by UM Brand Photography.

A monument honoring James Meredith, the first black student at the University of Mississippi. | Photo by UM Communications.

Three University of Mississippi sociology professors are launching a comprehensive study to understand racial and ethnic issues on campus and are seeking student participants to chronicle their experiences in online diaries.

Professors Kirk A. Johnson, Willa M. Johnson, and James Thomas are seeking volunteers to confidentially journal their experiences with race issues at UM. The identities of the students will be known only to the investigators. For now, the study is expected to last at least until the end of the school year, but the hope is to continue it through coming academic years.

“We’re casting a broad net, so all students are eligible to participate,” Kirk Johnson said. “We want to hear from undergraduate or graduate students, those taking classes on the main campus or satellite campuses and those from all races and ethnic groups as long as they have some sort of racial and ethnic experience to share.”

Kirk Johnson

Kirk Johnson

The professors will collect diary entries and then analyze them to see what sort of factors lead to everyday incidents of racial and ethnic tensions or conversely, racial and ethnic cooperation. The professors are still making arrangements for other universities to join the project, so for the time being, UM is the only school being studied.

Students who wish to enroll in the study can click this link. The link takes students to an online consent form, after which they’ll be directed to the diary website. There’s also a brief tutorial that explains how to write a diary entry.

James Thomas

James Thomas

Deadly riots ensued when James Meredith became the first black person to enroll at the university in 1962. Over the years, other racial incidents have been reported at the university. In response to those incidents, Chancellor Dan Jones recently issued a comprehensive report with recommendations for making the university a more welcoming environment for all. Part of that recommendation is that the university deal head-on with issues of race.

Willa M. Johnson said the university is in a unique position to study the issue.

“We think that the University of Mississippi is well situated to discuss these things,” she said. “We think our history gives us an opportunity. Rather than just look at this as the grave problem that it truly is, we look at it from the perspective of the opportunity that it affords the University of Mississippi to both understand race and also to put scholarship out that explains prejudice, both where it comes from, how it’s expressed in all its iterations.”

Willa Johnson

Willa Johnson

Since the nation elected its first black president in 2008, many wonder if the country is “post-racial,” Willa Johnson said. She doesn’t believe that’s the case, but thinks the study can be a valuable look into how racial and ethnic dynamics work.

“We’re not post-racial, but where are we?” she added. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

Professors who would like their students to participate in the diary project for extra credit should contact Kirk Johnson at

Professor Johnson Receives Lift Every Voice Award at UM Black History Month Kickoff

Posted on: December 8th, 2015 by erabadie


Lift Every Voice 2015

Shawnboda Mead (center) congratulates 2015 Lift Every Voice Award honorees Brandi Hephner LaBanc (left) and Jennifer Stollman. | Photo by Mary Knight.

“Lift Every Voice” is traditionally known as the Negro national anthem, but the song title is also the name of an annual award presented at the University of Mississippi.

Four UM employees received the 2015 “Lift Every Voice” award Feb. 3 during UM’s Black History Month kickoff celebration in the Student Union. Honored were Kirk Johnson, associate professor of sociology and anthropology and African-American Studies, Joseph Ward, professor and chair of history; Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs; and Jennifer Stollman, academic director for the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.

Kirk Johnson

Kirk Johnson

Joseph Ward

Joseph Ward

“The Black Faculty and Staff Organization of the University of Mississippi founded the ‘Lift Every Voice’ award to recognize an individual, group or entity that has contributed to the betterment of human relationships on our campus,” said Shawnboda Mead, director of the UM Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement. “Particular emphasis is given to the areas of diversity, multiculturalism and inclusion. Recipients of this award have worked beyond their normal employment boundaries and performed the ‘extra mile’ of service to their fellow man for the university.”

Previous recipients include Thomas Wallace, former vice chancellor for student affairs; Johnnie Williams, former vice chancellor for administration and finance; Leroy Wadlington, former pastor of Second Baptist Church in Oxford; Glenn Hopkins, dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and professor emeritus of mathematics; Gloria Kellum, vice chancellor emeritus for university relations; Maurice Eftink, associate provost and professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat; Donald Cole, assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs and associate professor of mathematics; Warner Alford, alumni director emeritus and former athletics director; Kirsten Dellinger, professor and chair of sociology and anthropology; Jackie Certion, FASTrack academic adviser; Patrick Perry, director of the LuckyDay Program; Curtis Wilke, associate professor of journalism; Aileen Ajootian, professor of classics; Susan Glisson, director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation; Jeff Jackson, associate professor of sociology; Charles Ross, associate professor of history and director of African-American Studies program; Susan Grayzel, professor of history and director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies; Morris Stocks, provost and professor of accountancy; and former Chancellor Dan Jones.

Professor Jodi Skipper Receives Award of Merit

Posted on: December 2nd, 2015 by erabadie
Professor Jodi Skipper (left) receiving the Mississippi Historical Society award.

Professor Jodi Skipper (left) receives the Mississippi Historical Society award.

Jodi Skipper, assistant professor of anthropology and Southern Studies, received the Award of Merit to Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc., from the Mississippi Historical Society at their annual meeting in Corinth on March 7th, 2015.

The award is presented to individuals or organizations for outstanding archival, historical, museum or records management work.

University of Mississippi archaeologists Jodi Skipper and Carolyn Freiwald began excavations at the Hugh Craft house in Holly Springs in November 2014 with a crew of Department of Sociology and Anthropology graduate and undergraduate students and the participation of Rust College students working with Dr. Alisea McLeod. Construction work on foundation of the 1850s mansion and detached kitchen building (that likely also served as the slave quarters) revealed evidence of consumption of whitetail deer, turkey, pig, and cow, as well as antebellum ceramics and other artifacts identified by homeowner and historian Chelius Carter.

Professors Skipper and Freiwald hoped to identify features associated with culinary practices of the time, as well as other household activities. The team identified features including a posthole, old piping, and a burned area in the yard. They returned in April 2015 to continue the investigation in conjunction with the Behind the Big House program (April 7th-12th) of tours of several extant slave dwellings and the Holly Springs Annual Pilgrimage Tour of Historic Homes and Churches.


National Humanities Alliance Recognizes UM Archaeologists

Posted on: December 2nd, 2015 by erabadie

November 19, 2015

NHA graphicWork by Jodi Skipper, assistant professor of anthropology and Southern Studies, and Carolyn Freiwald, assistant professor of anthropology, on the Behind the Big House Project in Holly Springs, Mississippi has been recognized as a model for collaborative, publicly-engaged work by the National Humanities Alliance (NHC).

Their project with Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Mississippi Humanities Council, Visit Mississippi, and The Slave Dwelling Project is featured on an interactive NHC map and described as the following:

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 3.26.30 PM

A series of preservation and interpretation programs around historic slave dwellings, designed to encourage local community engagement with the past, present, and future of race relations.

Each year, pilgrimage tours throughout the South immerse visitors in re-creations of the antebellum era, focused largely on historic homes. In the city of Holly Springs, Mississippi historical preservation advocates have created the Behind the Big House program, collaborating with academic researchers to ensure that these re-creations of local history move beyond the city’s large mansions to explore its many extant slave dwellings and interpret the experiences of the enslaved people who inhabited them.

Launched in 2011, Behind the Big House complements the annual Holly Springs Pilgrimage by offering docent-led tours of multiple local slave dwellings and live historical interpretations in cooperation with the South Carolina-based Slave Dwelling Project.

Faculty and students from the University of Mississippi Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Center for the Study of Southern Culture are central to this project, serving as docents as part of their coursework on southern heritage and tourism, and leading archaeological digs to reveal aspects of daily life in and around the slave dwellings.

Behind the Big House creator and primary organizer, Preserve Marshall County & Holly BehindBigHouse-logoSprings, Inc., developed the program in order to underscore the linkage between historic preservation and a fuller understanding and appreciation of local history, and to draw attention to issues of slavery and race relations in discussions of the Holly Springs community’s past, present and future. Since Behind the Big House launched in 2011, organizers have noted a marked diversification of participants in the city’s annual Pilgrimage tours. Concurrently, Behind the Big House has given impetus to a new local program titled Gracing the Table, a local racial reconciliation group, co-founded by Rust College faculty and students, whose motto is “community healing through communication.”

Finally, Behind the Big House reaches growing numbers of students from local public schools each year, and the program’s organizers are developing an approach to year-round school programming and other study groups. This approach is intended to serve as a template for other communities with similar ties to the legacy of slavery that wish to revisit their own historical narratives in the interest of greater accuracy, completeness, and inclusiveness, whether or not they contain extant slave dwellings.

Partners are Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc., University of Mississippi Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Mississippi Humanities Council, Mississippi Development Authority/Tourism Division, The Slave Dwelling Project, Inc.

Professor Derrick Harriell Wins Poetry Award

Posted on: November 24th, 2015 by erabadie
Derrick Harriell, assistant professor of English and African American Studies, speaks at the Oxford Conference for the Book.

Dr. Harriell speaks at the Oxford Conference for the Book.

MIALnewlogoDerrick Harriell, assistant professor of English and African-American studies at the University of Mississippi, has the won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters 2014 Poetry Award for his new collection of poems, Ropes.

Founded in 1978, MIAL aims to recognize the elite in fiction, nonfiction, visual art, musical composition, photography and poetry. The award is coveted and highly competitive.

“Receiving the news that my collection of poems Ropes won the MIAL Award was gratifying in so many ways,” Harriell said. “I’m happy contributing to the high standard set by our English department and M.F.A. program. Having only been in Oxford for a year-and-a-half, I’m pleased to be embraced both personally and professionally.”


In 2010, Harriell composed his first collection of poems, Cotton. For the follow-up, Ropes, he focused on the lives of black boxers in America.

Harriell was born and raised in Milwaukee. He has a Ph.D. in English from University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and a M.F.A in Creative Writing from Chicago State University. He has worked as an assistant poetry editor for Third World Press and Cream City Review and has taught countless writing workshops for students of all ages. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, his work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies.

The award reflects well on the university, said Ivo Kamps, professor and chair of the UM Department of English.

“This is quite an honor for Derrick, for the department and the university,” Kamps said. “(Harriell) is relatively new to the university and the state of Mississippi, but he is already making a significant impact on our literary culture and our students. We are pleased and fortunate to have him on our faculty.”

UM Program Transforms Incarcerated Men Into College Students

Posted on: November 24th, 2015 by erabadie

New initiative giving Parchman penitentiary residents a fresh start in life


The PTCPP class of 2015 relishes their success with their professors, Alexander (far left) and Pickett (far right).

Professor Patrick Alexander (far left) and Professor Otis Pickett (far right) with the Prison-to-College Pipeline Program class of 2015.


Several men imprisoned at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman are on their way to earning degrees, thanks to a new University of Mississippi-based program designed to assist them in obtaining a college education.

UM’s Prison-to-College Pipeline Program is a university-community engagement initiative promoting higher education in prison. Participants must have earned a GED or high school diploma to be eligible. Those who complete the course receive a certificate and the possibility of time off their sentences. Begun in summer 2014, the project already has yielded 34 graduates.

“We started the program because we love both learning and learners and we believe that meaningful learning happens everywhere—even behind prison walls,” said Patrick Alexander, UM assistant professor of English and African-American Studies and co-founder of the program.

Alexander started the program with alumnus Otis Pickett (PhD history ’13), former UM assistant clinical assistant professor of teacher education at UM and now an assistant professor of history at Mississippi College. The two men share a common passion to extend educational opportunities to an often-neglected population.

“We both knew, through our prior research and teaching experiences, the profound role that student-centered prison education has played not only in reducing recidivism, but also in positively transforming isolated prison environments and the post-imprisonment outlooks and outcomes of imprisoned students,” Pickett said.

Alexander and Pickett credit Glenn Hopkins, dean emeritus of the UM College of Liberal Arts, with inspiring them to launch the program, known as PTCPP.

“Dean Hopkins made a point of emphasizing that he saw college-level and college-aspiring students at Parchman as part of our UM community during a 2012 faculty orientation we attended,” Alexander said. “Soon after we began teaching that fall, we heard from Dr. Linda Keena and Dr. Christopher Simmons, our UM colleagues who spearheaded the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program at Parchman. They shared how many of the men they’d met through that program were really interested in taking college-level courses.”

Consequently, Alexander and Pickett began building relationships with education staff and prospective postsecondary students at the prison. With guidance, encouragement and support from the Department of English, African American Studies Program, College of Liberal Arts, Sarah Isom Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, and McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, the duo began PTCPP’s 10-week pilot course at Parchman.

“‘Justice Everywhere’ met on Mondays for three hours from June to August 2014,” Pickett said. “We rigorously studied the speeches, writings and historical context that shaped the lives of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer and Barack Obama. An enhanced version of the course, which included more readings and writing assignments, was taught this past June through August.”

For the summer 2015 term, six students are receiving credit in English from UM, while eight are receiving credit in history from Mississippi College. One student, who previously earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, received credit from last year’s course and is considering graduate school at Mississippi College.

While their identities were kept anonymous, PTCPP graduates wrote evaluations about their experiences.

“I learned more in these 10 weeks than I did in my high school and college years,” one graduate wrote. “The great professors not only showed us a passion to teach, but also to learn about us and from us as they taught us valuable lessons.”

Another wrote, “This course was a great confidence booster heading back into society. It’s never too late to get an education and (there is) no limit to the things you can accomplish.”

Participants who completed the courses received their certificates during a graduation ceremony held at Parchman. Mississippi College was the first institution in the state to offer college credit for a PTCPP student. UM added several more for-credit learners this summer.

“In the months and years to come, we hope to expand the number and diversity of courses offered in the program in ways that reflect the wide range of educational goals and intellectual curiosities expressed by imprisoned students at Parchman and throughout the state of Mississippi,” Alexander said.

Seeing their students regain dignity and rediscover hope for their futures is one of the most rewarding aspects of the program, Pickett said.

“The work we do through PTCPP aims to unite university faculty and administration across disciplines and area institutions in the ethical-intellectual endeavor of teaching at the postsecondary level throughout the state prison system,” he said. “The PTCPP also aims to raise public consciousness on the impact of higher education on imprisoned populations regionally and nationally through the formal publication and public presentation of scholarly work on this topic.”

Alexander and Pickett presented their findings at a Southern studies brown bag lecture during fall 2014 semester and in papers presented at the 2015 Biennial Southern American Studies Association conference last February in Atlanta.

The PTCPP was funded by grants from the UM College of Liberal Arts both summers.

“We are extremely thankful for and humbled by their generosity and hope to receive the continued support of the college, the university at-large in years to come as the PTCPP expands,” Alexander said.
“This course exceeded my expectations in so many ways,” a proud graduate of the program wrote. “It should be offered every summer.”

The DM: Students Study Oprah Winfrey

Posted on: November 24th, 2015 by erabadie
Professor Shennette Garrett-Scott

Professor Shennette Garrett-Scott

April 1, 2015 | By Tisha Coleman, courtesy of The Daily Mississippian

As the warm coffee aroma filled Starbucks, Professor Shennette Garrett-Scott and her students met for a lecture while enjoying Teavana Oprah Chai Tea Lattes.

The tea was appropriate for the class, “The Power of O,” which focuses on billionaire Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey, who was born in Mississippi, is an influential figure in many different areas. She is an actress, a movie and television producer, a philanthropist and an award-winning talk show host who owns a cable television network.

Garrett-Scott, assistant professor of history and African-American Studies, said that she created the course as a way to “look critically at various aspects of Oprah’s life, career and brand to contextualize her experience.”

“My goal is to share some of my ruminations about Oprah’s impact on American culture and contemporary black women,” said Garrett-Scott, who was the speaker at a brown-bag event in February entitled “‘Oprah Don’t Play!’: Black Women and the (A)Politics of Respectability in the 21st Century.”

“Though Oprah’s story is often told as a rags-to-riches tale of an exceptional individual who overcame incredible odds, she did not emerge out of a vacuum nor does she operate in one,” Garrett-Scott said. “I wanted to draw in considerations of politics and the economy — or, more to the point, money and power — in and beyond popular media.”

The objective of the “Power of O” course, according to the syllabus, is to pay close attention to race and representation, gender, sexuality, economics and politics to explore where power lies and how it operates. Eight students are enrolled in the seminar class.

Dyamone White, a senior majoring in integrated marketing communications, is a student in the class.

“There are so many misconceptions about Oprah and her life, but Dr. Scott has revealed with evidence some true facts that make Oprah seem so regular – just like us,” White said.

Parker Hill, a philosophy major and student in the course, said that her most enjoyable discussion was based on an article identifying Oprah as a de facto feminist.

“The author claimed that despite her accumulation of wealth, allowing her to speak as freely as she pleases, the negative connotations of being a feminist made Oprah disassociate herself from being one in name,” Hill said. “Ironically, her personal actions comply with the idea of a feminist by some definitions. Some agreed with the assessment, others did not, but it was still interesting to discuss.”

When asked how black women can gain respect in the 21st century, Garrett-Scott responded, “The proper question to ask would be, ‘What can black women learn from their past to equip them for the challenges of the 21st century?’”

She continued on to say, “In some ways, these challenges are unique to our particular time and place. In others, they are persistent challenges in a society that continues to devalue blackness and womanness.”

Though Oprah is the focus of the course, “The Power of O” includes topics other than Oprah herself.

“We discuss theories like Antonio Gramsci and cultural hegemony and Jürgen Habermas and public spheres,” Garrett-Scott said.

The class has also explored the history of representations of black woman in popular media.