Karla Holloway to Lead African and African-American Studies at Duke University

By Hawkins, B. Denise | Black Issues in Higher Education, May 2, 1996 | Go to article overview

Karla Holloway to Lead African and African-American Studies at Duke University


Hawkins, B. Denise, Black Issues in Higher Education


Durham, NC -- Under the glare of bright

television lights, while in the company of gushing

administrators and her support staff, family and

scholarly contemporaries, Dr. Karla F.C. Holloway

decided it was time to "exhale."

"We are finally at a place at Duke where we

can stop holding our breath about what's going to

happen with African and African-American

studies," declared Holloway, who was named the

person to revive and expand the 20-year-old

program at Duke University.

Holloway's appointment April 14 and the

program she is building here have emerged as the

most visible signs that African and

African-American studies has been reborn as an

academic discipline at Duke after a long period of

uneven history that included revolving-door

leadership.

To her admirers, Holloway's ability to leverage

an unprecedented level of administrative

commitment for the interdisciplinary program is also

one of the most promising signs that the university

is beginning to move beyond lip service and

unrealistic plans to recruit Black faculty and

administrators.

Although Duke's two highest-ranking Black

administrators are female, the presence of women,

and in particular African-American women in the

faculty and administrative ranks, has been small,

says Dr. Janet Smith Dickerson, vice president for

student affairs.

Both Dickerson and Dr. Myrna C. Adams, vice

president for institutional equity, called Holloway's

appointment a reaffirmation of the university's

commitment to stabilizing the African and African-American

studies program and to

enhancing the climate for recruiting and

retaining Black faculty.

"It's like struggling to get the stars lined

up in the right constellation. Getting them

aligned is the problem, but Holloway's

appointment is a step in the right direction,"

says Adams.

The burden "is on Duke to back up its

aspirations and commitment to the [African

and African-American studies program],"

says Dr. John Bracey Jr., a professor of

Afro-American studies at the University of

Massachusetts-Amherst. "The burden will not

be on Holloway to prove herself."

Holloway and university officials are

counting on the new John Hope Franklin

Research Center for African and

African-American Documentation to lend

credibility and name recognition to the

program. The center is named for the eminent

Duke historian whose personal and

professional writings will form the

cornerstone of the collection.

In the days before deciding to accept the

post, Holloway said, Franklin's was one of

the "important" voices she heeded. "I ran into

him in the airport and he cornered me and

said, `Karla, you better do this, it would good

for all of us.'"

Says Franklin: "The hiring of people like

Karla Holloway and Paula Giddings and the

new people in engineering and Psychology -- these

are indications that we are on our way."

Assembling scholars

Holloway has already begun assembling

her community of scholars. The first to call

Duke her new "intellectual and spiritual

home," is Dr. Paula Giddings, one of the

nation's leading experts in Black women's

studies and one of the main reasons

Holloway decided to accept the appointment.

Giddings, a 1995-96 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting

Scholar at Duke, will become a research

professor in women's studies with a joint

appointment in the African and African-American

studies program in the fall. …

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