14 Black Classicists: a Photo Installation

Latin scholar Helen Maria Chesnutt (1880-1969). Her parents were the African American novelist Charles Chesnutt and Susan Perry.

Blowers Gallery in UNC Asheville’s Ramsey Library is now featuring 14 Black Classicists: A Photo Installation, showcasing black scholars of the post-Civil War era.

The exhibit, presented by Ramsey Library and the Center for Diversity Education, was created by Michele Valerie Ronnick, Wayne State University professor of classical and modern languages, literatures and cultures.

14 Black Classicists features photos and information about black scholars, largely neglected in modern histories, who taught Greek and Latin at the college or university level and whose academic accomplishments helped pave the way for future generations of African Americans entering American universities. “With them,” says Ronnick, “begins the serious study and teaching of philology (the study of language) by African Americans.”

Among the scholars featured are William Sanders Scarborough, the first black member of the American Language Association and author of a Greek textbook, and two North Carolina natives—Wiley Lane, who became the first black professor of Greek at Howard University, and Helen Chesnutt, who, as a high school Latin teacher in Ohio, helped inspire her student Langston Hughes. She also was the daughter of novelist and essayist Charles Waddell Chesnutt. The exhibition’s creation was funded by the James Loeb Classical Library Foundation at Harvard University.

Professor Ronnick will participate in an opening reception from 5-6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018 in the gallery. She will also present a lecture, A Look at Black Classicism in North Carolina: From Wiley Lane (1852-1885) to Helen Maria Chesnutt (1880-1969), from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Ramsey Library Whitman Room. Both events are free and open to all.

The exhibition is free and open to everyone during regular library hours, through February 27, 2018.


One comment

One comment

  1. Lora Holland says:

    This exhibit will only be here in Asheville through February 27th, so please come before then to the UNC Asheville campus’ Ramsey Library to see the photos and read about these amazing scholars.

Leave a Reply