Esteemed Professor Reginald Ellis got right to the heart of the matter, quoting Langston Hughes.
“Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. Let it be the pioneer on the plain seeking a home where he himself is free. America never was America to me,” Ellis said Monday as he quoted an excerpt from one of Hughes’ poems that he believed to be powerful and very timely to start out his presentation, “Black Women: The Backbone of American Democracy.”
Ellis, assistant dean of Graduate Studies at Florida A&M University, gave the presentation to commemorate notable Black women for Women’s History Month.
Hosted by FAMU’s Lifelong Learning Program via Zoom, Ellis went into the details of the history from slavery to the present regarding Black women’s roles in changing and bettering the Black community.
After reading Hughes’ poem he explained the ideas of liberty and what freedom meant for African Americans, the Fourteenth Amendment, the Mississippi Constitutional Convention and gave an overview of democracy through a historical timeline.
Some of the prominent Black women Ellis discussed in his presentation were Phillis Wheatley, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Mamie Bradley Mobley and Fannie Lou Hammer. He explained how in present times, Black women have been very important to voter turnout and changing the results of the 2020 and 2022 election cycles.
Sponsored by Florida A&M’s Office of Continuing Education, Phyllis Watson said that the Lifelong Learning Program is a new venture for the university.
“One in which we invite retirees, people from the community and all over who are 55 and older to continue their learning endeavors,” Watson said.
She also had a message for students who don’t fit the demographics for the program, “Always stay open to learning. Learning new ideas doing things and sharing information with others,” she said.
In addition to the presentation, the office hopes to continue different kinds of presentations regarding history and workshops for those willing to learn.
As Ellis closed out his presentation, he opened the space for comments and questions as well as discussion on the facts shared throughout the lecture.
Irene Gaines, who is an educational consultant and a FAMU alumna, shared some of her thoughts. “Even having been through the learning piece from junior high school and college, it was so refreshing to hear that again and I think that’s a key point, that’s not wasted on the students coming through college now. The point of relearning their history as to so not to repeat it again,” Gaines said.
Along with Gaines, Patricia Green-Powell, an executive director at FAMU and former dean of the College of Education, added to what Gaines had to say.
“It was so refreshing to have this conversation,” she said. “Dr. Ellis has given us more food for thought, more that we need to reflect and to remember and make certain that we too can add to the rich history of African American women in our own way.”
FAMU’s Lifelong Learning Program will continue to host workshops that will be open to those 55 and up and share through FAMUINFO.