The Golden 13: The Navy’s First African American Naval Officers

Keynote Presenter: Dr. Roosevelt Wright, Retired Captain USN

“The Golden 13: The Navy’s First African American Naval Officers “
Dr. Roosevelt Wright, Retired Captain USN is a native of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and has been blessed with a career that has explored three areas of professional activity—the world of Academia, Professional Broadcasting, and the U.S. Military.  The “Golden Thirteen” were 13 enlisted Sailors who became the first African-American commissioned and warrant officers in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Annual Woodson Trivia Challenge: BACKYARD BRAWL

The Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH and the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society jointly present the Annual Carter G. Woodson Birthday Celebration!  


The Pittsburgh Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society 
vs Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH.

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Jarvis R. Givens

Assistant Professor of Education and African & African American Studies at Harvard University. He specializes in the history of African American Education and his first book, Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching, was published in 2021 by Harvard University Press. His research has been supported by fellowships and grants from the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the William F. Milton Fund, and published in peer-reviewed journals such as the American Education Research Journal, Souls, Harvard Educational Review, and Race Ethnicity and Education. Professor Givens earned his Ph.D. in African American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

Los Angeles Review of Books:
Fugitive Pedagogy: The Longer Roots of Antiracist Teaching:

“…in the wake of unprecedented uprisings during the summer of 2020, American education has been roiled by the place and possibility of “antiracist” protocols for instruction.”

More Rivers to Cross

Black Faculty and Academic Racism at Penn State University (Part 2)

Executive Summary

In January 2020, More Rivers to Cross: A Report on The Status of Black Professors at Penn State University (UP) Part 1, an independent analysis of the status of black professors at Penn State’s University Park (UP) campus, was released. Since then, our nation and particularly communities of color have been ravaged by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, in the aftermath of the videotaped police murder of unarmed citizen George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, our society has been severely challenged by the “great racial reckoning” and the most massive street protests in the nation’s history, organized and led by communities of black people throughout the country.

Penn State joined the chorus of academic institutions decrying this horrible tragedy and issued statements of “support” and “compassion” for communities and individuals long subjected to what President Eric J. Barron identified as “trauma, pain and frustration” created by everyday U.S. cultures of “hate, bias and racism.”

Dr. Barron’s subsequently convened a Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias and Community Safety and released a set of draft recommendations at the conclusion of 2020. Glaringly omitted from the Commission or President Barron’s declared priorities or specific implementation plans, in advance of his retirement in 2022, are any references to increasing the underrepresentation of black faculty throughout the academy.

1 The 100 black professors presently comprise 3.1% of 3,214 faculty and has remained at that level for the last 20 years. About the same proportion of black faculty are represented at the Commonwealth Campuses (CC, see Appendix A). We can only imagine what the first black Penn State professor, Mary E. Godfrey, would have to say about the progress that has been made in this area since 1956.

More Rivers to Cross: Black Faculty and Academic Racism at Penn State University (Part 2) extends the work of our initial report and goes beyond the recommendations of Dr. Barron’s Commission. This report presents the results of a survey of black professors at University Park (UP) and at each of the CC regarding their experiences with racism…

…on the institutional and interpersonal levels, perpetrated by students, colleagues, administrators as well as the academic culture in which we work. In addition, this document provides an analysis of the particular challenges and experiences faced by black professors at the CC. Lastly, we offer our transitions toward equity and justice. Some of the key findings of our report are listed below:

The survey revealed that 8 out of 10 black professors reported experiencing racism at Penn State UP and slightly more at the CC. Almost half encountered racism within the first year of their appointment and one-third within 1-3 years.

More than two-thirds (67.7%) of respondents reported that they have experienced racism within the last 3 years from students either “sometimes” (41.5%) or “often” (26.2%). About 3 times as many CC faculty compared to their UP colleagues (44% vs 15%) reported that they experienced racism from students “often” within the last three years. Black faculty have been “called racist names by students” and racial invectives have appeared on their vehicles or written in student ratings of teaching effectiveness (SRTEs) including the epithet “nigger”.

A faculty member stated that “Calling me a monkey that has to be sent back to Africa may be a joke but deeply hurtful because of the history behind the dehumanizing language.” One professor lamented that “student[s] complain every time I teach about enslavement”. In fact, two-thirds of all respondents (63.5%) indicated they have “sometimes” (34.9%) or “often” (28.6%) experienced racism by way of their SRTEs within the last 3 years. One black professor succinctly summarized the issue: “Students evaluate me differently on SRTEs than my white colleagues.”

Over half of black faculty (53.1%) stated that they had “sometimes” (35.9%) or “often” (17.2%) experienced racism from administrators or supervisors. For example, black faculty reported, “the discussion of excellence (without any clarification) whenever minority, specifically black, are proposed as a target faculty candidate or graduate applicants”; or hearing “that hiring Black and Brown people is vital to the department so long as it is not at the risk of the reputation of the program”. 

Another professor stated, “When I received tenure I received a smaller raise than my white male counterpart who got tenure the year before. I know because they told me what they got. I spoke to [administrator] and [this person] made an excuse that they were more ‘experienced’.”

A majority of black professors (56.2%) reported that they had experienced racism either “sometimes” (45.3%) or “often” (10.9%) from their colleagues within the last 3 years. One professor listed the following: “Being forgotten on credits for projects, unintentionally for sure but it has happened many times. Not being invited to events, lack of response to communications, lack of greetings in meetings, these are things that indicate that in spite of people saying you are important, you are not. Not made to feel like a part of things. These are not wrongdoings but you do not feel a part of things.” Other professors recalled unsettling interpersonal encounters with their colleagues such as: “A ‘colleague’ telling me I speak so well… and another ‘colleague’ asking if I smoke weed when they found out I was from [a certain country]”.

The survey revealed that 70% percent of black professors either “sometimes” (37.7%) or “often” (32.5%) did not believe the academic culture at Penn State would in the next decade become an equitable environment for the pursuit of learning, teaching, and scholarship for black Americans. Black faculty echoed a fairly consistent theme in commenting about the academic culture and prospects for racial justice, as noted in this statement, “Historically, Penn State fosters a conservative climate and culture; therefore, it is difficult to feel included when institutional leaders do not champion diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

A professor stated, “I was stopped while walking. I was surrounded by campus police. I have been followed around campus by police.” Another faculty member remarked, “The culture of silence to racism is pervasive, and you become the monster by standing up for your rights.” One other faculty member stated, “I question whether Penn State can authentically improve how it handles systemic racism and/or individual acts of racism.” 

The vast majority of respondents (73.1%) who experienced racism chose not to report it to the administration, for various reasons. According to one respondent, “Racism is normalized at Penn State so it’s futile to report to white administrators or people of color who uphold whiteness about my experiences.” A black UP professor offered this perspective about not reporting, “I would not expect anything to be done about it. Further, racism is deeply ingrained into the Penn State system. It is part of the culture and climate. One complaint will not address institutionalized racism” (see Appendix B for the fully array of comments of black professors).

Further, racism is deeply ingrained into the Penn State system. It is part of the culture and climate. One complaint will not address institutionalized racism” (see Appendix B for the fully array of comments of black professors).

Our transitions toward equity and justice address concerns in which the University, by way of President Barron’s Commission or noted comments, fall short with respect to the recruitment, hiring, and retention of black professors and promoting an antiracism agenda.

In addition to mere numbers, we contend that culture matters too. What takes place within the classroom and individual departments in interactions with students, colleagues, and administrators impacts the wellbeing and mental health of black faculty and their pursuit of teaching, research, and service.

These transitions toward equity and justice undoubtedly build upon the previous reports and study groups of black faculty who have contributed to this undertaking and whose ideas, proposals, implementation plans, and challenges have gone unheeded and indeed ignored. Most notably, some of the ideas and programmatic initiatives needed to address the status of black faculty at Penn State campuses and the systemic racism embedded in the institution are presented below in an abridged format and explored in further depth later in the report:

Recruitment and hiring plans and measurable implementation to increase black faculty over the next 5 years.

Implementation of an antiracism and social justice agenda by/for the Board of Trustees, university administration, deans, departmental heads and program and center directors and faculty at all ranks.

Particular and immediate attention devoted to the transformations needed at the Commonwealth campuses with regard to black faculty and their interactions with students, colleagues, and administrators.

Establishment of an antiracism progress and accountability committee consisting of internal and external stakeholders.

Commissioning of an external study to examine salaries and equity over the last 15 years.

Immediate disuse of the racially biased system of student ratings of teaching effectiveness.

Restructuring of present organizational units such as the Office of Affirmative Action, Office of Educational Equity, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion functions to reflect an antiracism agenda.

What we find so sadly lacking from the platitudes of President Barron and the Commission is an action agenda as well as a timetable to address systemic racism at UP and CC similar to other Big Ten universities such as Ohio State University, the University of Michigan, and Michigan State University.

Lastly, this report reminds the Board of Trustees, administration, faculty, students, and the citizens of the Commonwealth that changing the status and plight of black professors as well as other faculty of color at Penn State will require a concerted and sustained set of systemic initiatives motivated not only by goodwill but by a commitment to social justice and “doing the right thing.” Penn State can and must do better to be truly, “WE ARE”…

Authors: Gary King, Ph.D.; Marinda Kathryn Harrell-Levy, Ph.D.; Mildred R. Mickle, Ph.D.; Kevin Bell, Ph.D.; Darryl Thomas, Ph.D.; and Julia Green Bryan, Ph.D.

Acknowledgments: We acknowledge the valuable contributions of research assistants Amari McDuffie and Alex Koehl. We also express our gratitude to black faculty who participated in the survey and those who contributed to the discussions and review of this report 

1 Barron Shares Message On Actions to Address Racism, Bias, and Community Safety. 03-01/html

Tribute to Mr. Charles S. Wiggins

Mourning the Loss While Celebrating the Life

On September 8, 2020 MR CHARLES STERLING WIGGINS celebrated his 103rd birthday with family and friends. At that time Mr. Wiggins was the oldest living member of ASALH. Just shy of entering his 104th year, on Saturday August 28, 2021, Mr. Wiggins entered his resting place instead. Though we mourn the loss with great sadness, we celebrate the life with equally great joy—the life of an incredible man, known as “Uncle Charlie” to family and friends, honored, loved, revered, and respected by all who knew him.

The Testimony of Mr. Wiggins

Interview with Mr. Wiggins by Alonna Carter
Aspiring Public Historian, Accomplished Writer, and Excellent Public Speaker, Historian for the Edna B. Mckenzie Branch of ASALH

“…We came by train,” Mr. Wiggins told me, “the train left Alabama and then came to Cincinnati—that’s a route. And from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh.” Traveling alone and unfamiliar with the North or any place outside of their homeland, relatives put written tags on the children’s clothing in case they got lost or separated. Fortunately, they arrived safely and settled in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.”

—Mr. Charles S Wiggins, 2019

Interview and Video with Mr. Wiggins (101 years old) by Dr. Stephanie Boddie, Scholar and artist of the Ethnographic Research Project, Unfinished Business.

Every day there’s obstacles out there. We have to say it’s going to take a lot more yet to overcome them. And I think education is number one because we got to know what’s going on through education to keep up with what’s going on. If you get behind it they’re not going to give it to you. I am not one of these smart people to learn all that. But there’s youngsters out there who are great. They’ll get it. Might not be in my time. But they’ll get it.

—Mr. Charles S Wiggins, 2018

This is just one of the stories captured from the new project, Unfinished Business: Pittsburgh’s Great Migration and the Movement of Black Lives. This project unpacks and showcases the untold stories of Black elders and the ways the distinctive history of Pittsburgh’s Great Migration (1916-1970) connects to contemporary Black social movements. This work leaves audiences to wrestle with the profitability of justice and their role to address our “unfinished business” of race.

​This work further highlights the entrepreneurial spirit of Blacks in Pittsburgh, as they faced persistent discrimination and systematic racism on the job in the city’s steel and iron mills, at the polls, and in everyday life. Thousands of elders migrated to Pittsburgh in two major waves before and after World War I from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. 

To Honor and Celebrate the Life

Mr. Charles S. Wiggins
1917 – 2021

Click images to enlarge

What the People Say about Mr. Wiggins…

“What a joyous day it is for me to be able to send birthday greetings to you—the oldest member of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. God has blessed you with a long life, and you have in turn blessed us with your presence and service. As a veteran, a contributor to the welfare of Pittsburgh, and a member of the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch, you are loved, valued, and remembered with sincere appreciation on this, your special day.”Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, the ASALH National President, obtained by the New Pittsburgh Courier

With deep sadness and regret I inform you that ASALH oldest member in the United States of America, Charles S. Wiggins passed this morning after a long bout with illness. Mr. Wiggins would have been 104 years of age on September 8, 2021. What a treasure! He made the world a better place with the joy he brought so many. Our prayers and condolences are extended to the family of Mr. Wiggins. —Ronald B. Saunders, President of the Dr. Edna B. Mckenzie Branch of ASALH

Her Name Says It All

Zaila Avant-garde

zaila: an avant-garde spelling bee champion
(I am always amazed at how children’s names often seem to fit them to a tee.)

A wonder teen from New Orleans, became the champion of the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee. The winning word: murraya, “a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees (family Rutaceae) having pinnate leaves and flowers with imbricated petals.”

She is the first Black American to be crowned winner of the Bee. She attends Clover Lane Homeschool and was sponsored by New Orleans Chapter of The Links.

Zaila’s home community in New Orleans celebrated like a true village supporting one of its own. The music, the drumming, and the dancing represented a celebration for the Black community across the nation.

For me her story brought home the nostalgia of watching the 2006 film, Akeelah and the Bee, with my then younger children. For me Akeelah was like the black panther of words. The scenes in the movie where the community supported and encouraged Akeelah, cheering her on—these are the things that come to mind as I watched the community celebrate Zaila. This is as it should be. It takes a village to raise a child also means the village must celebrate that child in their accomplishments, cheering them on as they grow and dream and reach new heights.

Dribbling While Spelling. How many kids do you know can dribble three basketballs while spelling “machiavellian”? Or dribble six basketballs while spelling “amaryllis”? Or dribble three basketballs while standing on a foam roller and spelling “portmanteau”?

This delightful teen rocked it on the Jimmy Kimmel show when asked to do multiple tasks involving dribbling while spelling. Her personality swept the audience off its feet along with the host and Bill Murray.

Guinness Book of World Records:

As of July 9, 2021, Zaila Avant-garde holds the world record for:

What’s Next for Zaila? With her gifts, talents, passion, and Black girl magic, I’d say just about anything her heart desires! I hear she aspires to attend Harvard University, play in the WNBA and is considering a career at NASA. Can’t wait to see the fruit she bears…

THE PURPOSE OF THE BEE. Our purpose is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. 
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us. 
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? 
You are a child of God.
—Marianne Williamson

Keeping His Torch Forever Burning: ASALH Presidents 1916-1951

Edna B. McKenzie ASALH Branch: 2021 Founders Day Program

September 11 | 1 PM ET | Zoom

Ida E. Jones, PhD
University Archivist at Morgan State University

Dr. Ida E. Jones is a native New Englander. She graduated with a B.A. in News Editorial Journalism, M.A. in Public History, and a PhD in American History from Howard University.

Keeping His Torch Forever Burning: ASALH Presidents 1916-1951 is presented as celebration of ASALH’s Annual Founder’s Day to honor Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History. Follow the lineage of ASALH presidents who have kept the torch burning while understanding the importance of passing a burning torch to future generations.


Dr. Ida E. Jones is the University Archivist at Morgan State University. She administers the Beulah M. Davis Room which houses the university archives along special collections of rare books and manuscript collections. While not a Morgan she is adjunct faculty at Lancaster Bible College. She is a newly appointed Board member of the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center, as well as, a Board member of the National Collaborative of Women’s History sites. She is serving her second year as co-vice president of the Baltimore City Historical Society.

Scholarship is evident in numerous publications, speaking engagements, as well as radio and television appearances. Publications include four books, a variety of encyclopedia entries and an online exhibition. Her most recent work Baltimore Civil Rights Leader Victorine Q. Adams the Power of the Ballot. This is the first biography of Councilwoman Adams, the first African American woman elected to the Baltimore City Council. Finally, Dr. Jones is a consummate scholar who believes deeply in the words of Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune who stated “power must walk hand in hand with humility and the intellect must have a soul.”

She self-published her first book in 2011, The Heart of the Race Problem: the Life of Kelly Miller.  This was the first published biography on Kelly Miller. She utilizes the daysman, a Biblical mediator to situate the intellectual life of Miller. His ideology sought to harmonize the divergent perspectives of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. 

You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” 
Maya Angelou

Unfinished Business: From The Great Migration to Black Lives Matter

August 14 | 11 AM – 1 PM ET | Zoom

Stephanie Clintonia Boddie, PhD, MSW, Baylor University

A scholar, oral historian, film-maker, and a classically-trained soprano, who blends traditional research and oral histories with film, music and conversation to create a new body of work: Unfinished Business: From the Great Migration to Black Lives Matter.  


Dr. Boddie began collecting oral histories in 2011 and started this project in 2015 while a post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies & the Economy (CAUSE). This work has positioned her to receive the Advancing the Black Arts in Pittsburgh grant in 2016 and the Penn Avenue artist-in-residency at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in 2017 as well as present this work nationally and internationally.

“Angelic and mesmerizing” are words that have been used to describe my singing voice. As an artist, I am more than my voice. I am a singer, storyteller, scholar, and social worker. Music and oral history bridge my love for storytelling and scholarship. Both require listening with the heart and transcending the typical binary black and white or us versus them type of thinking.

Stories Matter

“Unfinished Business” is an ethnographic research project using a multimodal approach. The live and filmed storytelling comprise an engrossing compilation of societal and cultural knowledge from African American elders, historic Black churches, and community organizations. Their oral history interviews are being augmented by keeping ethnographic diaries of the participants. These diaries include photos, letters, and journals, as well as other primary or secondary sources.

This musical documentary portion of this work offers a creative interactive approach to documenting oral histories of African American elders. The musical documentary engages the audience and provides a powerful storyline that is followed by courageous and compassionate conversations to call audiences to remember our past and consider our “unfinished business” related to racial identity, race relations, and systemic racism.

Join This Screening and Conversation

You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” 
Maya Angelou

ASALH: 106th Annual Meeting & Virtual Conference


Co-hosted by the ASALH Florida Branches
Septemer 2021

In these extraordinary times, The Association for the Study of African American Life and History recognizes that we need each other now more than ever. With the limitations of the worldwide pandemic in mind, we have decided to move our 106th Conference to a virtual platform. In order to maintain the spirit of community that we each enjoy during the physical conference, we have decided to modify our format to best suit our needs.

ASALH will convene every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday in September beginning on September 14 through September 30. The final plenary session and Annual Members Business Meeting will be held Wednesday, September 30, 2021, with activities broadcast via Zoom and ASALH TV.


Nikole Hannah-Jones Joins Howard University

July 6, 2021: In a surprise move, Nikole Hannah-Jones declines UNC’s tenure offer for position at Howard University. “Award-winning journalist @nhannahjones reveals on @CBSThisMorning she has declined the University of North Carolina’s offer for tenure and will be the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Reporting at @HowardU.”

“Every other chair before me, who also happened to be white, received that position with tenure,” she said. “And so, to be denied it, and to only have that vote occur on the last possible day, at the last possible moment, after threat of legal action, after weeks of protests, after it became a national scandal — it’s just not something that I want anymore.”
—Nikole Hannah-Jones

Hannah-Jones will lead Howard University’s newly created Center for Journalism and Democracy. This is exciting news as the country grapples with the reality of its historical past and present riddled with racism, discrimination, and hypocrisy. The move is a testimony to the true power of nurturing, growing and empowering our community from within.

We stand on the collective backs of millions of Black minds and Black bodies that traversed the middle passage, enduring dehumanization, Jim Crow, lychings, and massacres across generations.

We are gifted and talented, possessing the innate ability to make incredible progress despite the structural, systemic, and institutional forces designed to limit the progress and pursuits of African Americans going all the way back to 1619.

Bravo to Howard University and Nikole Hannah-Jones for this monumental move!