Celebrating Black History

Honoring Contemporary Black Women


Harvard Graduate School of Education, July 18, 2013, Deborah Jewell-Sherman

Debra Jewell Sherman, PhD

Dr. Jewell-Sherman is a graduate of Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Urban Superintendents Program and has built a reputation over the past decade as one of the most successful urban district superintendents in the country. Prior to joining the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s faculty, Dr. Jewell-Sherman served as superintendent of Richmond Public Schools with a track record of success that culminated in her being named Virginia Superintendent of the Year 2009 by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS). During her appointment, 95 percent of Richmond’s lowest performing schools achieved full accreditation under Virginia’s Standards of Learning reform legislation. In addition, the district improved from 18 percent to 91.7 percent of all schools meeting this standard as measured by the State Department of Education (2008). Currently, Dr. Jewell-Sherman serves as the Director of the Urban Superintendents Program and is the principal investigator for an initiative between the faculty of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. In the fall of 2010, Dr. Jewell-Sherman will serve as a key faculty member for HGSE’s new Doctor of Education Leadership Degree (Ed.L.D).


Sylvia A. Boone

Sylvia Boone, PhD

Sylvia Boone, a scholar of African and women’s art and the first black woman to be granted a tenured professorship at Yale University.

Ms. Boone was an associate professor of art history and Afro-American studies, specialized in African art, female imagery, women’s arts and masks.

In Yale’s early years of coeducation in the 1970s, she taught a course on black women and served on the executive committee for the women’s studies program. She also organized an early conference on black women and founded a black film festival.

Her writings include “Radiance from the Waters: Ideals of Feminine Beauty in Mende Art” and “West African Travels: A Guide to Peoples and Places.” Her work won awards, fellowships and grants. She lectured internationally and was a consultant to the Smithsonian Institution.

Ms. Boone was a vice president and scholarship chairman of the Roothbert Fund, which helps students train for education careers.

She was instrumental in organizing the 150th anniversary commemoration of the 1839 rebellion of 53 kidnapped Africans on the slave ship Amistad who were jailed in New Haven for mutiny but eventually were freed.

She started at Yale as a visiting lecturer in Afro-American studies in 1970. After earning master’s and doctoral degrees in art history there, she joined the faculty in 1979 and was promoted to a tenured, full professor in 1988.



Rita Pierson, PhD 

Rita F. Pierson, a professional educator since 1972, taught elementary school, junior high and special education. She was a counselor, a testing coordinator and an assistant principal. In each of these roles, she brought a special energy to the role — a desire to get to know her students, show them how much they matter and support them in their growth, even if it was modest.

For the past decade, Pierson conducted professional development workshops and seminars for thousands of educators. Focusing on the students who are too often under-served, she lectured on topics like “Helping Under-Resourced Learners,”“Meeting the Educational Needs of African American Boys” and “Engage and Graduate your Secondary Students: Preventing Dropouts.”

“Parents make decisions for their children based on what they know, what they feel will make them safe. And it is not our place [as educators] to say what they do is ‘wrong.’ It’s our place to say maybe we can add a set of rules that they don’t know about.” — Rita Pierson


Kimberle Crenshaw

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, J.D.

Kimberle Crenshaw was born in Canton, Ohio in 1959. She received a B.A. from Cornell in 1981, a J.D. from Harvard Law in 1984, an LL.M. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1985, and has been a part of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law faculty since 1986. At Cornell, she was a member of the Quill and Dagger society. She has published works on civil rights, black feminist legal theory, and race, racism, and the law. She often commentates on various aspects of law and racial politics and her scholarly interests center around race and the law. She is the founding coordinator of the intellectual movement called the Critical Race Theory Workshop. She is a Professor of Law at UCLA and Columbia Law School and teaches Civil Rights and other courses in critical race studies and constitutional law. In 1991 and 1994, she was elected Professor of the Year. At the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she received her LL.M., Professor Crenshaw was a William H. Hastie Fellow. Later, she clerked for Justice Shirley Abrahamson of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Crenshaw has published numerous works including Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech and the First Amendment. She was also the coeditor of Critical Race Theory: Key Documents That Shaped the Movement and her works have appeared in the Harvard Law Review, the National Black Law Journal, the Stanford Law Review, and the Southern California Law Review. She has lectured nationally and internationally on race matters, addressing audiences throughout Europe]], Africa, and South America, and facilitated workshops for civil rights activists in Brazil] and constitutional court judges in South Africa.

Her work on race and gender was influential in the drafting of the equality clause in the South African Constitution. In 2001, she wrote the background paper on Race and Gender Discrimination for the United Nations World Conference on Racism and helped to facilitate the addition of gender in the WCAR Conference Declaration. Crenshaw has also served as a member of the National Science Foundation’s Committee to Research Violence Against Women and has assisted the legal team representing Anita Hill. She is also a founding member of the Women’s Media Initiative and is a regular commentator on NPR’s The Tavis Smiley Show. Crenshaw is known for her work in the late 1980s and early 1990s which was especially important in influencing and developing the idea of intersectionality, a word she coined in 1989.

In 1996 Crenshaw was co-founder, with Prof. Luke Harris, of the African American Policy Forum (AAPF). According to AAPF’s mission statement: the Policy Forum is dedicated to advancing and expanding racial justice, gender equality, and the indivisibility of all human rights, in the U.S. and internationally.


Caroline Hoxby


Caroline M. Hoxby, PhD

Caroline M. Hoxby  is an American labor and public economist whose research focuses on issues in education and local public economics. She is the Scott and Donya Bommer Professor in economics at Stanford University and director of the Economics of Education Program for the National Bureau of Economic Research. She is also a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

Hoxby is a native of Shaker Heights, Ohio, where she attended Shaker Heights High School. Her father, Steven Minter, worked in the U.S. Department of Education during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. Hoxby graduated with summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University in 1988, where she won the Hoopes Prize. She then attended Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. In 1994, she received her doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

From 1994 to 2007, she was a faculty member of Harvard University, first as an assistant professor, then as Morris Kahn Associate Professor of Economics, and starting in 2001 as the Allie S. Freed Professor of Economics.  She was the university’s only African-American economics professor with tenure. In 2005, she was appointed to be one of the 24 Harvard College Professors. In 2006, she won the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Prize. She moved to Stanford University in 2007, where she is the Scott and Donya Bommer Professor of Economics. She was named the John and Lydia Pearce Mitchell University Fellow in Undergraduate Education in 2014.

She has been married to Blair Hoxby, also a Harvard graduate and a Rhodes Scholar, since 1993. He is currently a faculty member in the English department at Stanford University and does scholarly work on John Milton and Renaissance theater.


Alyson Hobbs


Alyson Hobbs  

Allyson Hobbs is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Stanford University. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1997 and she received a Ph.D. with distinction from the University of Chicago in 2009. Hobbs teaches courses on African American history, African American women’s history and twentieth century American history. Her research interests include American social and cultural history, racial mixture, identity formation, migration and urbanization, and the intersections of race, class and gender. Currently, she is at work on a book manuscript that examines the phenomenon of racial passing in the United States from the late eighteenth century to the present. Professor Hobbs’ book is tentatively titled When Black Becomes White: A History of Racial Passing in American Life and it is under contract with Harvard University Press.

For her fellowship, Allyson Hobbs will continue work on her book manuscript, When Black Becomes White: A History of Racial Passing in American Life. For African Americans, passing was a potent weapon against racial discrimination but also a potential threat to personal and community integrity. Just as passing exposed the contradictions of white racial thinking, it also revealed the tensions within African American communities about racial identity. Departing from conventional notions that portray passing as an individualistic and opportunistic enterprise, Hobbs focuses on the collective nature and communal politics of passing. A central aim of her book is to move into the largely unexplored interior spaces of African American lives and families to reveal the ways that everyday people made sense of their racial identities.


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