Spelman College is one again creating a new lane in academics by establishing an endowed position for queer studies, which is the first of its kind at an HBCU! Learn more in the open letter from Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. below.

Source: US Department of Education
Dr. Evelynn Hammonds, C’76, Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science and Department Chair and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University has been appointed the inaugural Audre Lorde Visiting Professor of Queer Studies, the first-ever endowed professorship in Queer Studies at a Historically Black College or University. Named after celebrated poet and civil rights and women’s rights activist Audre Lorde, the endowed professorship is attached to the Comparative Women’s Studies Program, housed in Spelman’s Women’s Research & Resource Center. The project was spearheaded by a national advisory committee that included Spelman Board of Trustees member, Colleen Taylor C’90; Dr. Dwight McBride, President of the New School; Prof. Cathy Cohen, Univ. of Chicago; writer/activist Gloria Steinem; and Center Director, Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall ‘66, staffed by Ms. Shenika Swan, Director of Planned Giving, Spelman College. 

A pioneering scholar, before joining Harvard, Dr. Hammonds was professor of the History of Science at MIT where she was the co-organizer of the historic Black Women in the Academy Conference in 1994 – the largest gathering of African American women academics in the U.S. at the time. Upon moving to Harvard, Hammonds served as the first senior vice-provost for Faculty Development and Diversity and the first African American and first female Dean of Harvard College. In addition to developing and teaching a course on “Race, Gender, Sexuality and Science,” which will be available to Spelman and Harvard students in 2023, Dr. Hammonds will provide leadership for a long-term collaborative partnership between Spelman College and Harvard University. Hammonds is a distinguished interdisciplinary scholar in the fields of women, gender, and sexuality studies and the history of science, medicine, and public health. She is currently the president-elect of the History of Science Society. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine where she recently co-authored the well-received report, Transforming Trajectories for Women of Color in Tech on the status of women of color in technology fields. Hammonds is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Hammonds to campus,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman College. “Her current work, which focuses on the intersection of scientific, medical, and socio-political concepts of race in the United States will be of great benefit to our students engaged in studying similar themes in the Women’s Research and Resource Center. We are especially grateful for the generosity of Jon Stryker and the Arcus Foundation for the leadership challenge gift they provided to spearhead this distinguished endowed professorship at Spelman College.”

In January 2021, Spelman raised additional funds to match a $2 million gift from philanthropist Jon Stryker, who selected Lorde as the Professorship’s namesake for her life-long commitment to LGBTQ rights and progressive social change.

“Dr. Hammonds is an LGBTQ trailblazer, distinguished scholar, remarkable human being, and is the ideal person to occupy the Audre Lorde Endowed Professorship in Queer Studies as a visiting scholar. Her selection is even more meaningful as it is a true homecoming for one of Spelman’s most illustrious alumnae,” said Stryker.

During the 2022-2023 academic year, Dr. Hammonds will organize planning for a first-of-its kind international conference on Queer Studies that will include scholars and activists from the African Diaspora, South Asia and the Global South.

“It is such a tremendous honor for me to return to Spelman College as the Audre Lorde Visiting Professor of Queer Studies,” said Dr. Hammonds. “Lorde was an extraordinary writer, activist and friend whose work changed my life. It is such a privilege to be able to carry on her work at my dear alma mater.”

Audre Lorde had a strong connection to Spelman, speaking on campus on several occasions and donating her personal papers and other artifacts in 1995 to the Spelman Archives, a part of the College’s Women’s Research and Resource Center. The Audre Lorde Papers have been open to scholars since 2009 following a grant from the Arcus Foundation, founded by Stryker, which enabled the papers to be processed and displayed for students, faculty and researchers from around the world.

We are pleased to celebrate Dr. Hammonds’ appointment, and we wish her nothing but boundless success in the academic year ahead. 

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.
President, Spelman College