Featured

Celebrate Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s 147th Birthday

Upcoming Branch Event – December 17, 2022 at 11:00 AM ET

Sponsored by The Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History & The Pittsburgh Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society 

“How Well Do You Know Dr. Carter G. Woodson?” 
A Celebration of Carter G. Woodson’s 147th Birthday
12-19-1875 to 12-19-2022


Presentation by Carl Redwood, Descendant of Carter G. Woodson
Chair, Hill District Consensus Group
Project Director, Pittsburgh Black Worker Center

Meet Carl Redwood, Jr…
A social worker who has participated in various community organizing efforts on the local, national, and international levels. He has been a part time faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work for many years. Carl was a union organizer for faculty unionization at Pittsburgh Universities as part of the Academic Workers Association of the Steelworkers.

Carl is active with the Hill District Consensus Group working to build the leadership and power of low-income and working-class residents of the Hill District to advance racial and economic justice in our neighborhoods, our schools and our city. Carl serves on the board of Pittsburgh United, a coalition of community, labor, faith, and environmental organizations committed to advancing the vision of a community and economy that work for all people. He is also a board member of The Abolitionist Law Center, a public interest law firm inspired by the struggle of political and politicized prisoners and organized for the purpose of abolishing class and race-based mass incarceration in the United States.

Carl currently serves as the Project Director of the Pittsburgh Black Worker Center.

Carter Woodson recommended readings from Carl Redwood

  • Meier A. & Rudwick E. M. (1986). Black history and the historical profession 1915-80. University of Illinois press.
  • Givens J. R. (2021). Fugitive pedagogy : carter g. woodson and the art of black teaching. Harvard University Press.
  • Scally M. A. (1985). Carter g. woodson : a bio-bibliography. Greenwood Press.
  • Goggin J. A. (1997). Carter g. woodson : a life in black history (Louisiana pbk.). Louisiana State University Press.
  • Reprint. The Journal of Negro History, Volume 1, January 1916. Edited by Carter G. Woodson

PLUS Carter G. Woodson Trivia Challenge
Presented by Marlene Branson, President of AAGHS


Featured

ASALH 2022  Outstanding Branch Programming Award


The Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of Pittsburgh PA has been selected to receive the ASALH 2022 Outstanding Branch Programming Award 

How befitting that our Branch would receive this award in its tenth anniversary year!

I am quite confident that Dr. Edna B. McKenzie is very much pleased with our work and is smiling down at us on our achievement. This was a great team effort from all members of the Executive Board, other McKenzie members and from our excellent technical team led by Tammy Saunders and her aunt Gwendolyn Howze. 

I would like to thank all of the presenters, lecturers, collaborators, partners and the Pittsburgh Chapter AAHGS, Dr. Ida Jones VP Membership of ASALH all of who played a significant role with reference to our programming for the last two years. 

The McKenzie Branch is an integral part of the Tree built by Dr. Carter G. Woodson with the founding of ASALH in 1915. The work we do in all the Branches of ASALH is to honor the legacy of Dr. Woodson by providing rich programs of substance and content to keep alive the enduring important work of Dr. Carter G. Woodson and the mission of ASALH. 

Our Branch received two powerful nominations from Dr. Stephanie Boddie, Assistant Professor of Church and Community Ministries at Baylor University and Dr. Artie Travis, Vice President for Student Affairs, Frostburg State University in Frostburg Maryland. Thank you Dr. Boddie and Dr. Travis for your respective nominations for our Branch. 

Sincerely, 
Ronald Brooks Saunders 
President Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch Association for the Study of African American Life and History 

Love Warriors and Battle Scars-An Analysis of Black Healing and Black Resistance

Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH Welcomes Author, Leader, and Professor, Dr. Johnathan White

May 13 at 11:30 – 1:30 PM ET


Description

“How could a people chronically hated still produce so many love warriors… Where did Harriett (Tubman) come from?” —Dr. Cornel West

“In America I was free only in battle, never free to rest. And he who finds no way to rest cannot long survive the battle.” —James Baldwin

The history of Black people is a history of resistance. But to continue the fighting, there must be healing. There must be living to fight another day. An analysis of Black studies reveals innumerable “Love Warriors” who wielded love in the face of savage oppression assaulting the spirit, minds and bodies of Black people,

Yet, Black destruction has been thwarted and is not eminent. Black people are a healing people, loving, living and fighting, time after time. We will explore examples in religion, (deliverers of transcendent faith messages); examples in the arts (Harlem Renaissance and Hip Hop); and examples in social activism, of healing resistors. One cannot endure or wage the freedom struggle without healing from persecution, violence, dehumanization and grief. Healing rooted in love, is essential to Black freedom.


Biography

Dr. Jonathan JeVon White
was born in Norfolk, VA. He
graduated from Clark Atlanta University with a B.A. in Political
Science. He earned his doctorate from the University of
Pittsburgh specializing in modern U.S. and African American
history. His dissertation examined Black jazz musicians in
Pittsburgh before and after integration, and how collective
memory re-imagines the past.

He is an Associate Teaching Professor at Penn State University Greater Allegheny. He has taught courses in history, African American studies and leadership development. He co-founded the Study of Hip-Hop Conference and the Stewart and Jones Scholar Leadership Program. He is a founding member of the Crossing Bridges committee which serves the surrounding community. In addition, he chairs the Anti-Racism Task Force at Penn State University Greater Allegheny. He is also creator of the Black Woman Reaffirmed video project. His upcoming album, “Love Algorithms”, is an eclectic mix of poetry, hip-hop and spoken word.

Dr. White is a board member of the Langston Hughes Poetry Society. In addition, he served as lead instructor of the Full Armor Institute, mentoring young Black men at Mt. Olive Baptist Church. Moreover, Dr. White has conducted Black history workshops and seminars on living a vibrant lifestyle that synthesizes faith and the pursuit of social justice.

Dr. White was awarded the Dr. James Robinson Equal Opportunity Award honoring those who fight for equity atPenn State in 2021. He received the highly competitive
Atherton Excellence in Teaching Award in 2021 as well. Finally, in 2022, Dr. White was a Pittsburgh Courier Men of Excellence honoree. He was recognized for his contributions
in the field of education.


Virtual Meeting via ZOOM: Register in advance for this meeting.

President’s Circle Featuring Dr. Sharita Jacobs Thompson

Throughout Women’s History Month 2023, the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH presents brief features on a female Branch member or a family member of the Branch member.

Dr. Sharita Jacobs Thompson, Professor of Social Sciences

Dr. Sharita Jacobs Thompson is a Professor in the Social Sciences Department at Prince George’s Community College, teaching courses in United States and African American History. 


Sharita Thompson is a Professor in the Social Sciences Department at Prince George’s Community College, teaching courses in United States and African American History. She serves as an independent scholar and consultant, providing training to police departments across the country. 

She teaches a course titled The History of Policing in African American Communities (which includes a curated tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture), conducts implicit bias training, and facilitates conversations around social and racial equity topics and structural and institutional racism. She also provides consultation for Ford’s Theater, the National Park Service, and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

Sharita served as a subject area expert on CNN’s This is Life with Lisa Ling, the History Channel documentary, Aftershock: Beyond the Civil War, and appeared on the CSPAN3 series Lectures in American History. She is a former Assistant Professor of Civil War Era and Africana Studies at Gettysburg College. Her research focuses on Black Marylanders’ experiences during the American Civil War and Reconstruction era. Thompson recently completed a book chapter, “The Failed Promise of Reconstruction,” included in an edited volume titled The Civil War in Maryland Reconsidered (Louisiana University Press, 2022). 

She was the Co-Chair of ASALH’s 2023 Black History Month Festival. One of ASALH’s  signature Black History Month programs featured the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch in a program titled Resistance and the Black Press where Branch member, Tamara M. Saunders was one of the panelists. 

*Dr. Sharita Thompson is the wife of Robert Thompson who is the cousin of  McKenzie Branch Member, Ruth Ann Still. 


Ronald B. Saunders, President of Dr.Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH

President’s Circle Featuring Ruth Helen Washington

Throughout Women’s History Month 2023, the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH presents brief features on a female Branch member or a family member of the Branch member.

Ruth Helen Washington, First Black Recipient of “An Outstanding Science Teacher” Award in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

At age 75, Ruth Helen founded FAGANY, Inc (Financial Aid to Gifted Needy Youth) and was able to award scholarships to qualifying students in the Philadelphia School District before turning it over in 2003 as the FAGANY Fund to the African American United Fund of Pennsylvania. 

Ruth Helen Washington is the only surviving charter member and past first president of the Dover Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc.  She was also a member of the Philadelphia section of the The National Council of Negro Women, Inc (NCNW).


Whenever 97 year old Ruth Helen Washington is asked where she was born, she responds proudly by saying,  “It was in the small town of Mayesville,  South Carolina, birthplace of Mary McLeod Bethune.” However, she grew up in Philadelphia,  Pennsylvania, and was raised by her aunt and uncle following the demise of her mother at three and half years old.

After graduating from West Philadelphia High School in 1942, she was able to attend college with the financial assistance of the New Deal program and graduated cum laude from Morgan State College in 1946 with a B.S. degree in Biology. She then enrolled in graduate school at Howard University after being awarded a fellowship. She graduated from Howard University in May 1948 with a M.S. degree in Zoology. 

In September of 1948, Ruth Helen was employed as an Assistant Professor of Biology at Delaware State College, an HBCU. Becoming an avid reader of Black History based on her awareness of the need to maintain her students’ levels of high self esteem, her goal was to include the contributions of Black people in her Biology lesson plans whenever possible.  

In June of 1962, Ruth Helen resigned from teaching college to accept the challenge of teaching in an urban high school in Philadelphia. In January 1963, she was appointed as a Science teacher at West Philadelphia High School (WPHS), her alma mater. All during her 23 years of service at WPHS, she clung to her belief that all children are gifted in one way or another and through her creative teaching strategies in Biology, demonstrated that many students assigned to non- academic classes could perform as well as academic students. Her unique teaching approach led to the Philadelphia School District appointing a re-evaluation committee first at WPHS then District-wide that carefully screened and evaluated students before assigning them to special and/or non-academic programs. 

Ruth Helen was the first Black recipient of “An Outstanding Science Teacher” award in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  In 1975, she was listed in the “Outstanding Secondary School Teachers of America.” She has published in The Science Teacher and The Journal of African Civilization. Ruth Helen continued to receive numerous recognitions throughout her career. For many years, she had been a noted political advocate for the Black community and continues to be a woman with a strong faith in her God.  She was a long time active member of the Philadelphia Heritage Branch of ASALH and was honored by them in 2019 for her efforts on its behalf. At age 75, Ruth Helen founded FAGANY, Inc (Financial Aid to Gifted Needy Youth) and was able to award scholarships to qualifying students in the Philadelphia School District before turning it over in 2003 as the FAGANY Fund to the African American United Fund of Pennsylvania. 

In 2019, the McKenzie Branch was scheduled to present a Certificate of Lifetime Achievement to Mrs. Washington at a ceremony at the Vincentian Home, located in the Stanton Heights section of Pittsburgh.  But due to the pandemic we were unable to hold the ceremony.  The certificate was later delivered by hand. 

*Ruth Helen Washington is the mother of McKenzie Branch member Diane Carroll. 


Ronald B. Saunders, President of Dr.Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH

President’s Circle Featuring Andrea Coleman

Throughout Women’s History Month 2023, the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH presents brief features on a female Branch member or a family member of the Branch member.

Andrea Coleman is a local leader and a community activist for the Greater Hazelwood Community in Pittsburgh PA focusing on Lifelong Learning in Higher Education. She is a preaching and teaching prolific poet concerning Social and Human Justice and is a Disability Advocate of ADA Compliance and Awareness.


Andrea is the daughter of Helen Dennis, matriarch of the family with five living generations from Hazelwood. Andrea attended Grade school, Elementary School, and High School in Hazelwood and then moved on to pursue a career in the field of Education, graduating from Carlow University in 2006 with a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Development and then a Master’s of Education in Curriculum Instruction in 2011. 

She held employment positions as a Private Duty Nanny.  She also worked at  the Downtown YMCA, Hazelwood YMCA, University of Pittsburgh Families of Excellence, under Jerome Taylor,  Ph. D., Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Beginning with Books, Western PA School for Blind Children, Children’s Institute, Pittsburgh Public schools, Andrea Coleman Family Daycare Home, St Edmund’s Academy, the Jewish Community Center, and currently is an Instructor in Senior Programming for Community College of Allegheny County. 

Andrea currently serves on the Carlow University Alumni Advisory Council, Advisory Council for Allegheny Health Network, Teacher’s Advisory Council for the Carnegie Science Center STEM Program, the 3C Cohort of the Center of Life Program in Hazelwood on Social Justice, the Committee of the Affordable Housing for the Hazelwood Initiative community, the Committee of the Greater Hazelwood Community Collaboration Making a Greater Hazelwood, and is a member in good standing of the Edna B. Makenzie Pittsburgh Branch of ASALH under President Ronald Saunders. Andrea also sits on the Penn Hills Advisory Council to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the Greater Pittsburgh Age Friendly Program Community Panel. 

She also founded the Garden of Different Abilities in Hazelwood in 2017, after suffering a stroke stemmed from Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

Awards include the Civic Leadership Academy, Frank E. Bolden Tuition Scholarship Award, Poise Foundation, Administrative Skills Award Diploma from Goodwill Employment Training Center, Proclamation from the City of Pittsburgh, Corey O’Connor for over fifty years of Volunteer Service in Hazelwood.

Andrea is a preaching and teaching prolific poet concerning Social and Human Justice and is a Disability Advocate of ADA Compliance and Awareness. She also has established the Black History Initiative in Hazelwood in addition to being a Mentor, Tutor, and Volunteer for the Hazelwood Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Andrea, as part of her community involvement, is currently launching a new Curriculum of P>U>S>H> which stands for Prayers Up Sends Hope to Domestic Violence. Andrea says, “I ain’t been around the world, but I been around the block”.


Ronald B. Saunders, President of Dr.Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH

President’s Circle Featuring Dr. Beatrice Vasser

Throughout Women’s History Month 2023, the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH presents brief features on a female Branch member or a family member of the Branch member.

Dr. Beatrice Vasser, Prolific, Inspiring, Truth-telling Writer and Educator

Beatrice Wright Vasser, Ph.D obtained her Bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Central University and her Masters and Ph.D from the University of Pittsburgh. She has taught schools in Virginia, Pittsburgh and later assumed a position as the first African American Teacher, Athletic Director and Department Head at the famous elite Ellis School for 27 years.


Dr. Vasser later worked as a Therapist for Ruth Kane and Associates with clients afflicted with eating disorders.

“Bea” is a prolific, inspiring, truth telling writer and the author of three books: The Circle of Life Verses From My Journey, The Color of Black, and Black Mandemic. These poems depict her life and journey as a bold Black Woman in America. In respect of Black History and achievement, she collects African Art and designs Black Angels. It was indeed an honor for me to write the Preface in Dr. Vasser’s book, Black Mandemic. 

Dr. Vasser is an engaging world traveler. In the “Great Hall of the People”, located at the western edge of Tiananmen Square in Beijing China, Bea as a great scholar educator, presented on the topic, “Sports Psychology”. The Great Hall of the People is the equivalent of the United States Senate. What a tremendous honor to have Bea present in this great historic building in the country of China, one of the oldest surviving civilizations in the world.

On February 13, 2021, Dr. Vasser gave a penetrating, moving, uplifting presentation in a McKenzie Branch Virtual Program titled: The Death of My Mother: A Teacher in a One Room School. This lecture by Dr. Vasser was greatly received by all of those in attendance and was a most informative presentation.

* Lynne Robinson is the daughter of Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch Member, Sylvia Robinson.


Ronald B. Saunders, President of Dr.Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH

President’s Circle Featuring Isabella Rozalia Catalina Jordan

Isabella Rozalia Catalina Jordan, Scholar and Athlete

Isabella Jordan is 17 years old and attends the Neighborhood Academy which is located on North Aiken Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA. She is in the tenth grade. 


Ms. Jordan maintains a 3.8 GPA.  At the Neighborhood Academy, a C is a failing grade. Each year Ms. Jordan has taken AP classes in Logic and Statistics. She has been a track star since attending grade school at Dilworth Elementary School. She has received a college scholarship for track and has already earned several college credits. In addition to running track, Isabella  plays volleyball and is the MVP of the squad. Her team won the championship in its league. Ms. Jordan’s father, the late Hilly Jordan taught her to play the trombone and coached her in track.  Isabella participates in the following track events: 100 meter hurdles, 300 meter hurdles and the 4 x 100 meter relay. 

Isabella’s current hobbies include making ceramic pottery, designing clothes, and participating in mock trials. Isabella hopes to have a medical career. In her spare time she loves to bake. 

With her mom as instructor, Isabella does yoga. She is a member of the Valle View Presbyterian Church. 

*Isabella Rozalia Catalina Jordan is the granddaughter of Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch member, Rozalia Harrison Jordan.


Ronald B. Saunders, President of Dr.Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH

President’s Circle Featuring Dr. Carol V. Francois

Throughout Women’s History Month 2023, the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH presents brief features on a female Branch member or a family member of the Branch member.

Dr. Carol François is a lifetime educator who describes herself as a catalyst for positive change.

Dr. Carol François began her teaching career at age three when she says she taught her dolls on the doorstep of her home. Since that career starter, she has served in a variety of educational roles.


Dr. Carol François’ roles include posts as Associate Commissioner of Education at the Texas Education Agency; Chief of Staff for the Dallas Independent School; Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources for Wake County Public Schools in Raleigh, North Carolina; Department Director at Region 10 Education Service Center; grade-level principal in the Richardson Independent School District; Dean of Instruction with the Dallas Independent School District; and Director of Learning at Learning Forward a 10,000 member international education association

Carol’s current learning/education project Why Are They So Angry? (WATSA?) aims to take participants into unexplored territory to unlearn what they thought they knew about American history and being Black/African American in the United States. The project examines how systemic racism is steeped into every institution of American life from education, business/labor, healthcare, housing, religion, criminal justice, pop culture, and politics. The end goal is to arm participants with the knowledge to see, say, and confront systemic racism then ultimately address it in their spheres of influence. WATSA? can be found on many platforms including a Facebook learning community, a weekly podcast, a public Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, website, Linked In, and an online course.

In addition to WATSA?, Carol continues using her expertise in education as a consultant to the Texas Education Agency, Learning Forward, and a variety of organizations. Dr. François holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication from Lock Haven University and a Master of Education degree in Education Media from Temple University, both in Pennsylvania. She earned a Doctor of Education degree in Education Administration at Texas A&M University – Commerce.

She has been awarded numerous honors including being named the Dallas Independent School District Teacher of the Year, a Meadows Foundation Principal Improvement Fellow, a Texas A&M University –Commerce Alumni Ambassador, and an inductee into the African American Museum of Culture and History’s Educator Hall of Fame. An avid gardener, she is married and shares a home in Dallas, Texas with her husband, Clyde Henderson. Dr. Francois and her husband are proud members of the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH. 


I serve on the Johnstown Banishment Committee with Dr. Francois and her husband. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s largest ethnic cleansing in the State’s history. In 1923,the mayor of Johnstown Pa ordered most of the Black and Latino population out of said town. The Black and Latino population were forced out at gunpoint and threat of Imprisonment.

Ronald B. Saunders, President of Dr.Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH

President’s Circle Featuring Lynne Robinson

Throughout Women’s History Month 2023, the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH presents brief features on a female Branch member or a family member of the Branch member.

Lynne Robinson, CEO & Executive Producer of Black Robin Media

Award-winning producer, director and writer known for her commitment to empowering and inspiring audiences through stories of women and African Americans who have shaped our world.


With an expertise in history, pop culture, sports, and public affairs, she has produced a multitude of programming for networks including PBS, the Smithsonian Channel, BET, TV One, Audible Originals, YouTube Originals, Discovery, National Geographic, AspireTV and NBA Entertainment. 

Her recent works include directing the 2023 BET documentary BLACK+ICONIC: Style Gods hosted by award-winning actor, singer, producer, playwright and activist Billy Porter and executive produced by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson and Firelight Films. She was an executive producer of the 2022 MPT and Firelight Films documentaries Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom and Becoming Frederick Douglass, which both aired on PBS.

Robinson executive produced Black Robin Media’s 2021 Smithsonian Channel documentary Reclaiming History: Our Native Daughters currently streaming on Paramount Plus and Amazon Prime. She also directed and produced the 2021 Audible Originals Daymond John: Founding FUBU, and is the executive producer and director of the films and media being produced by Black Robin Media for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s upcoming exhibition Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures from the Past, Present and Beyondopening in March 2023.  

Robinson is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. She has been active in several organizations committed to the growth and promotion of our youth, including serving as a member of the Washington D.C. chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated, a founding board member of the City Collegiate Public Charter School, and a former board member of the Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in English Literature. 

* Lynne Robinson is the daughter of Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch Member, Sylvia Robinson.


Ronald B. Saunders, President of Dr.Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH

President’s Circle Featuring Njaimeh Njie

Throughout Women’s History Month 2023, the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH presents brief features on a female Branch member or a family member of the Branch member.

Njaimeh Njie, Multimedia Artist.

Working across photography, film, installation, and public art, Njaimeh Njie‘s practice centers everyday Black people, narratives, and landscapes with a focus on how the past shapes the present. She has worked on storytelling projects in communities across Western Pennsylvania, as well as Jackson, Mississippi, Paris, France, and Northern Ireland.


Njaimeh is the author of the photobook, This Is Where We Find Ourselves (2021), and she has exhibited in spaces including the Carnegie Museum of Art and The Mattress Factory. She has presented at venues including TEDxPittsburghWomen, Brown University, and Harvard University, and her work is included in the permanent collections of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, as well as many private collections.

2019-2021, Njaimeh worked with the Legacy Committee of the Historic Centre Avenue YMCA in Pittsburgh’s Hill District to create and install a photo mural paying tribute to the rich legacy of the institution. All Roads Lead to the Y collages a combination of archival and contemporary photos, and showcases images made by the legendary photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris, to stand as a marker of the past, present, and future legacies of the building and the Hill community at large. In addition to community collaborations such as this, Njaimeh has been honored with awards including the 2019 Visual Artist of the Year by the Pittsburgh City Paper, and the 2018 Emerging Artist of the Year by the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Beyond her independent practice Njaimeh is the Founder/Lead Producer of the nonfiction storytelling company Eleven Stanley Productions. She earned her B.A. in Film and Media Studies in 2010 from Washington University in St. Louis.

Njaimeh’s mother, Valerie Njie is a member of the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH. I had the distinct and unique honor to work with Njaimeh on the Legacy Committee of the Historic Centre Avenue YMCA in Pittsburgh’s Historic Hill District where Njaimeh did an excellent job.


Ronald B. Saunders, President of Dr.Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH

President’s Circle Featuring Dr. Shirley Biggs

Throughout Women’s History Month 2023, the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH presents brief features on a female Branch member or a family member of the Branch member.

Dr. Shirley A. Biggs, emerita faculty member in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Biggs earned an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education at Duquesne University, a master’s degree in Psychological Services and Reading at the University of South Carolina, and a doctorate of education in Language Communications at the University of Pittsburgh.  


At Pitt Dr. Shirley A. Biggs taught, conducted research, and published books and journal articles about reading education and the literacy development of students at the secondary, college, and adult levels. She has been editor of several academic journals—which include The Journal of College Literacy & Learning and The Negro Educational Review.

However, she began her career in education as a teacher at Baxter Elementary School in Homewood and Dilworth Elementary School in East Liberty. She later entered higher education by teaching for four years at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. During her stay in Columbia, she also served as a consultant and curriculum developer for 14 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) sponsored by the Georgia-based Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. 

Upon her return to Pittsburgh, she simultaneously earned her doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh and taught courses in Reading Education. Her early research explored how middle, high school, college, and adult students read and learn from textbooks. This led to her work as consultant to the National Center for Counseling and Instruction and the National Assessment of Educational Progress as a reading and study skills specialist. Her most recent research addresses the mentoring of adolescent children. 

In addition to her teaching and research roles in Pitt’s School of Education, Dr. Biggs provided leadership in two areas. She was the School’s Director of Affirmative Action and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. She also served as Director of Pitt Project Tutor (a program pairing Pitt students with elementary and middle school children in Pittsburgh to improve reading and math skills). 

Dr. Biggs has also served as reading consultant locally, nationally, and internationally for institutions serving students in elementary grades through high school and in post-secondary settings—from Penn Hills and Southwest Butler school districts, and Cleveland and Denver Public Schools to Wilberforce and San Jose State universities, to the University of the North (now Limpopo) and the University of Durban-Westville in South Africa. 

Dr. Biggs’ record of service includes her role as a past chair of the Youth Enrichment Services, Inc. Board of Directors. She was also a board member of Imani Christian Academy, as well as chair of its education committee. She continues to function as an executive editor of the international academic journal, The Negro Educational Review, and also as a volunteer who serves as chair of the Core/Steering Committee of middle and high school mentoring programs at the Mt. Ararat Community Activity Center (MACAC).  Dr. Biggs is a member of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church. 

*Dr. Shirley Biggs and her daughter Cheryl Biggs are members of the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH.


Ronald B. Saunders, President of Dr.Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH