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'Black Classicists' exhibit to open with Oct. 21 reception

Barry McNamara
10/17/2019
MONMOUTH, Ill. – An exhibit featuring African American men and women who blazed a trail in higher education will once again be on display at Monmouth College from Oct. 21 through the end of November.

On the opening day of the “Black Classicists” exhibit, it will be on display in Mellinger Commons in the Center for Science and Business, where an opening reception will be held from 5-6:30 p.m. The reception will feature student performances including original poems by Abierre Minor ’21 and Nathan Santiago ’22, both of Chicago, and Catie Bozarth ’22 of Pekin, Ill.

The exhibition, which Monmouth originally hosted in 2004, will move to Hewes Library on Oct. 22. The reception and exhibition are free and open to the public.

Created by classical scholar Michele Valerie Ronnick of Wayne State University in Detroit, the exhibition focuses on the lives of 15 African American men and women who taught Greek and Latin at the college level and whose academic accomplishments helped pave the way for future generations of African Americans entering U.S. universities.

“With them,” said Ronnick, “begins the serious study and teaching of philology (the study of language) by African Americans. All who study language and literature in the U.S. today, be it Italian, Swahili, Sanskrit, English or Arabic, trace the origin of their disciplines to the men and women featured in this photo installation.”

Featured African American academics in the exhibit include William Sanders Scarborough, the first black member of the Modern Language Association and author of a Greek textbook (1881); Lewis Baxter Moore, who earned the first doctorate awarded by the University of Pennsylvania to an African American for his work on the Greek tragedian Sophocles; Wiley Lane, the first black professor of Greek at Howard University; and John Wesley Gilbert, the first black to attend the American School in Athens, Greece.

Monmouth classics professors Adrienne Hagen and Alana Newman brought the exhibit to the College, along with Kasha Appleton ’20, a history major from Chicago. At the reception, Appleton will share her experience interning this last summer at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.

“Library staff, particularly Sarah Henderson and Lynn Daw, have also been crucial in the planning process, and we’ve received valuable support from Regina Johnson and the Office of Intercultural Life, Mike Nelson and the Center for Civic and Social Change, from the Educational Studies Department and from English professor David Wright,” said Hagen. “It’s been wonderful to see people from all over campus pulling together to make this event happen.”