Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Bennett College’s New Madame President

April 20th, 2007 by Ajuan Mance

Julianne Malveaux 

Gradualism simply doesn’t work. The civil rights struggle has to be a struggle for economic restructuring and economic justice. Only when the struggle deals with an array of economic issues can we say we are working on Dr. King’s unfinished business.

— Dr. Julianne Malveaux

Congratulations to Julianne Malveaux, who on June 1st will become the 15th president of Bennett College. Dr. Malveaux will replace current president Johnetta Cole, who is retiring.

Dr. Malveaux is one of the United States’ most visible public intellectuals, known for her outspokenness and for her uncompromising Black feminist perspectives. Cornell West has described her as “the most iconoclastic public intellectual in the country.” I would have to describe her as one of the most refreshingly straightforward Black public voices in America today. I enjoy her regular appearances as part of the roundatable discussion on NPR’s News and Notes program, hosted by Farai Chideya.

I first became aware of Julianne Malveaux during the early 1990s when she frequently appeared as a panelist on the PBS women’s roundtable and newsmagazine, To the Contrary. Widely criticized in 1994 for harsh comments made on that show about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, comments for which she later apologized, Dr. Malveaux has since meshed her notorious candor and audacity with her passion for social justice in an equally provocative but less incendiary manner. Since 1994 she has penned several books, founded her own multimedia production company, she has appeared regularly on a number of radio and television political programs, and has become a syndicated columnist whose op-ed pieces regularly appear in USA Today and other regional and national newspapers.

Many who remain outraged by Dr. Malveaux’s 1994 attack on Justice Thomas have questioned Bennett College’s decision to appoint her as president. Such commentators tend to cast her anti-Thomas tirade of 13 years ago as an unfair left-wing attack on a right-wing appointee. I tend, however, to view her comments as simply another round in the unending political boxing match between African American liberals, radicals, moderates, conservatives, and reactionaries, an intra-racial battle characterized by the trading of outrageous barbs and insults. This war of words has rarely resulted in productive dialogue, but all parties are equal contenders on this curious battlefield.

Having followed Dr. Malveaux’s career closely since I first encountered her on television, and having seen her use her public voice in the service of the greater good–advocating on paper, on radio, and in her television appearances for the rights of college students, single people, workers without health insurance, women athletes, and others–I applaud Bennett College’s decision.

Kudos to Dr. Malveaux and kudos to Bennett College. As your pathways join together, may the road be smooth and the journey take you always upward.

And farewell to the esteemed Dr. Johnetta Cole. Thank you for all that you have done for Black women’s education. We will never forget your contributions, and we welcome any continuing efforts to inspire and enrich our lives .

For a sampling of Dr. Malveaux’s ideas and opinions, check out these essays:

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in Academia, African Americans, Bennett College, Black Colleges, College Presidents, Current Events, Higher Education, Johnetta Cole, Julianne Malveaux, My Favorite Blogs, PBS, Women

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