Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

The Quotable Black Scholar: Beverly Daniel Tatum

September 15th, 2008 by Ajuan Mance

Beverly Daniel Tatum (b. 1954)

I also think of a conversation with a fellow student in graduate school, a Black man I did not know well. We were waiting for a bus, and he asked me what I was going to be doing when I finished graduate school. I told him that maybe I would teach, maybe I’d be a psychotherapist. I wasn’t exactly sure. I added, “You know, I just know I don’t ever want to be bored.” And he looked at me and said, “what is you class background?” “What do you men?” I replied. And he said, “Well, where did you get the idea that work was supposed to be entertaining?” The notion that work should be fulfilling and not just something you do because you have to support yourself or your family or to make ends meet clearly came out of my class background. Class, like race, influences how we view the world, and ultimately, influences how we interact with other people.

Beverly Daniel Tatum in Can We Talk About Race?: And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation ( page 89)

Biographical Notes: Beverly Daniel Tatum is currently the ninth president of Spelman College, the noted Black college for women, located in Atlanta, Georgia. She was born in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1954. Dr. Tatum was raised in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, where he father was a college professor and her mother was a schoolteacher. She earned her B.A. from Wesleyan University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan. She also holds an M.A. in religious studies from the Hartford Seminary.

Dr. Tatum comes from a long line of educators. Her great-grandfather, William Hazel, was the first dean of the Howard University school of architecture. Her grandparents, Victor Hugo Daniel and Constance Eleanor Hazel Daniel  spent several years as the co-directors of the Cardinal Gibbons Institute in Maryland. Her father, Robert A. Daniel, has been a professor at Florida A&M University, Southern University in Baton Rouge, and Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts.

Beverly Tatum has taught at UC-Santa Barbara, Westfield State College, and Mount Holyoke College. The Spelman College website provides this overview of her three most influential publications:

In her critically acclaimed 1997 book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” and Other Conversations about Race, she applies her expertise on race to argue that straight talk about racial identity is essential to the nation. Using real life examples and the latest research, she not only dispels race as taboo, but gives readers a new lens for understanding the emergence of racial identity as a developmental process experienced by everyone. Her latest book, Can We Talk about Race? and Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation, released in 2007, explores the social and educational implications of the growing racial isolation in our public schools. She is also the author of Assimilation Blues: Black Families in a White Community (1987). In addition, she has published numerous articles, including her classic 1992 Harvard Educational Review article, “Talking about Race, Learning about Racism: An Application of Racial Identity Development Theory in the Classroom.”

Posted by Ajuan Mance


Posted in Academia, African Americans, Beverly Daniel Tatum, Black History, Black Students, Class, Higher Education, race, Spelman College

2 Responses

  1. Eliss

    As a Spelman College alumna, I’m always proud to hear of great news and/or people in reference to Spelman.

  2. Mari-Djata

    Spelman College is doing big things. Did you hear about the Women’s Resource and Research Department on campus that was awarded a 1 million dollar endowment by the Ford Foundation?

    Great stuff! :-D

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