Friday, February 28, 2014

Black History Month in the Archives!

The Archives and Special Collections is proud to have documents relating to many black alumnae of Mount Holyoke College. Here we've chosen to profile a few wonderful and accomplished graduates.

Hortense Parker Attends Mount Holyoke (1879-1883)

Hortense Parker was the first known black woman (and woman of color) to attend MHC. Her father, John P. Parker, was an ex-slave and abolitionist whose home in Ripley, Ohio was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Her sixteen classmates remembered her as gracious, tenacious in her beliefs, and a talented pianist. She died in 1938 at age 79.

Martha Rolston Perkins was the second known black graduate of MHC. She majored in literature at Mount Holyoke and expressed pride in the institution. After graduating in 1889, she went on to be an executive secretary in New York City for 27 years. The Betty Shabazz Cultural House was named after her until 1980.

Margaret Claytor Woodbury (Class of 1958)
Margaret Claytor Woodbury graduated pre-med in 1958 with a physiology major. She continued on to be a physician and professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. She also was the president of the Alumnae Association and on the Board of Trustees.

Gloria Johnson-Powell (Class of 1958)
Gloria Jonson-Powell graduated in 1958 with a degree in economics and sociology. She was a part of the civil rights movement, where Martin Luther Kind Jr. advised her to stay in college instead of dropping out to recruit more Freedom Riders because "one of these days, we are going to need you." She was the first black woman to gain tenure at Harvard Medical School and now is an Associate Dean and Professor at the University of Wisconsin.

Mary McHenry Teaches at MHC (1974-1999)
Mary McHenry graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1954 and went on to teach English here. She brought the study of black literature to MHC and taught Suzan-Lori Parks, a renowned playwright. She also introduced Parks to James Baldwin when he was a visiting Five College lecturer. McHenry also taught English at Howard University, George Washington University, and Federal City College (Now the University of DC.)

Sheryl McCarthy
Sheryl McCarthy graduated in 1969 with an English major. She was the first woman columnist for New York Newsday, as well as being a former trustee of the college. She has written for Ms Magazine, USA Today, and The Nation. She currently works actively to connect current students with alumnae in the field of journalism.

Gabrielle Gregg (Gabi Fresh)
Gabi Fresh graduated from Mount Holyoke in 2008. She was MTV's first Twitter jockey and currently runs a "fatshion," or fat fashion blog aimed at encouraging plus size women to "take risks and have fun with clothing." She credits Mount Holyoke's all women's environment as empowering her in her life and career.

Tonight, February 28th at 7:30pm, the Association of Pan-African Unity will be putting on a cultural show called "Shamelessly Black." It will feature skits, songs, poetry, and music, all in the Blanchard Great Room. Make sure to stop by and check it out! To see more photographs and documents from the Archives and Special Collections, take a look at our Tumblr! Stay tuned for upcoming information about Hortense Parker Day and other events.

Thanks to Megan Haaga, ASC Assistant, for her aid in the research for this blog post. All images except that of Gabi Fresh come from the Archives Digital Collections. The image of Gabi Fresh can be found on her blog.

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