Whitney Battle-Baptiste, anthropology and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Center, was keynote speaker Oct. 4 at the 2017 Hortense Parker Celebration at Mount Holyoke College.
The annual event, which was started in 2009 by two seniors, is held in honor of Mount Holyoke’s students of color and includes speakers, an essay contest, entertainment and a reception.
The event’s name comes from the college’s first known student of color, Hortense Parker, who arrived on campus in 1878, a highly segregated time. College officials were surprised to learn she was black but allowed Parker to enroll in classes and live on campus with the white students. She graduated in 1883.
“I see myself as a scholar and activist who views the classroom and the university as a space to engage contemporary issues with a sensibility of the past,” Battle-Bapiste said.
Latrina Denson, assistant dean of students at Mount Holyoke, said, “We are honored to have Dr. Battle-Baptiste as the keynote speaker. As a black feminist whose focus is on archaeology in the African diaspora and the intersectionality of race, gender, class and sexuality, she’s a force to be reckoned with.”
Battle-Baptiste’s pioneering work includes interpreting captive African domestic spaces at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Plantation, the early history of Boston’s school segregation and the W.E.B. Du Bois Homesite in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Her first book, “Black Feminist Archaeology,” broke ground by showing how black feminist thought can be used to inform and improve the entire field of contemporary historical archaeology.
Also speaking was Kymberly Newberry, a graduate student in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies. Newberry was a Frances Perkins Scholar at Mount Holyoke.