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Beverly Guy-Sheftall

Pioneer of Black Women's Studies

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Beverly Guy-Sheftall on creating the first women's studies program at a historically black college and the reaction to feminism in the African American community.

Beverly's Biography

Childhood Sspiration: To become a pediatrician.
Scholarly Streak:  Missed only three days of school between kindergarten and 12th grade.
Thesis Topic: “Faulkner’s Treatment of Women in His Major Novels”
Proudest Accomplishment: “Making feminism very attractive to young women.”

As one of the leading African-American feminist scholars of our time, Beverly Guy-Sheftall was instrumental in bringing the women’s studies movement to women of color, and the voices of women of color to women’s studies. Highlights from her forty-year academic career include the founding of the Women’s Research and Resource Center at Spelman College in 1981, and the co-founding of SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women in 1983. She is an important figure in what she once described to Ms. Magazine as “the stunning tradition of black female intellectualism."
Raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Guy-Sheftall has spent most of her adult life at Spelman College, the oldest historically black college for women. She entered Spelman as a student at the age of 16, where she studied English and secondary education. After receiving her Masters in English from Atlanta University and teaching briefly at Alabama State University, she returned to Spelman in 1971. She has taught there ever since, providing the leadership to create the first women’s studies major at a historically black college.
In that time, she has published a number of works on African-American women’s literature and feminism, including the first anthology on black women’s literature, Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature (Doubleday, 1980), which she co-edited with Roseann P. Bell and Bettye Parker Smith. She is the recipient of a Kellogg National Fellowship and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. Her most recent publication is Gender Talk: The Struggle for Equality in African American Communities [2003].

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