Johnnetta Cole, 2011 Creativity Laureate, delivers remarks at Georgetown University and Oberlin College

Dr. Johnnetta Cole, President Emerita of Spelman College and Bennett College and former Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, spoke in conversation with Dr. Marcia Chatelain, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown University as part of the Women’s Center Biondi Copeland Lecture Series. The series was created in 2014 by the Women’s Center out of an endowment from Georgetown University alumni Gianni Biondi and John Copeland.

In her remarks at the October event, Cole called on universities to combat racism. According to Cole, “Events like the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017, which led to an outbreak of violence that left one woman dead, are a call to action for universities, which can lead the fight against racism by supporting research on the topic.”

“It’s at a time like this — and this really is said with extreme sincerity — that we need universities,” Cole said. “We’ve got to understand [these circumstances]. We can’t just push back against it, we can’t run away from it, we’ve got, in order to change it, to first understand it.”

Cole told the audience The Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally reflected the racism of the 1950’s and 1960’s, referencing her experiencing growing up in the South.

Cole returned to her alma mater Oberlin College in October to deliver the opening remarks at the Inauguration Ceremony of President Carmen Twillie Ambar. In her remarks Cole spoke about Oberlin being an intellectual home for her and the rich history of Oberlin - it was the first college to admit African Americans, and that President Ambar is the first African American to lead the institution.