Commencement Speaker

DR. BETTYE COLLIER-THOMAS

Collier-ThomasBettye Collier-Thomas, Professor of History at Temple University, received her PhD in United States History from George Washington University in 1974. Appointed by Joseph Duffy, head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, as a Special Consultant to the division of Public Programs (1977-1980, she developed NEH's first program of technical assistance to black museums and historical organizations; became a founder and officer of the National Association of Black Museums and organized the First National Conference on Black Museums. In 1975, she, with Nancy Foye, co-founded Women's History Week and, at the invitation of President Jimmy Carter, was invited to the White House to witness the President's signing of a proclamation to that effect.

From 1977-1989, Collier-Thomas served as founder and executive director of the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial Museum and the National Archives for Clack Women's History (designated by Congress a National Historic Site and now managed by the National Park Service). With the support of NEH, Collier-Thomas organized the much praised conference, "Black Women: A Research Priority: The First National Scholarly Research Conference on Black Women In America," which was held in Washington, D.C. November 12-13, 1979. From 1989-2001, she served as director of the Center for African American History and Culture at Temple University.

Collier-Thomas has received extensive praise and recognition for founding the first museum and archives solely dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of African American women's history, and works as a pioneer in the research and writing of black women's history. In March 2015, Michigan State University held a national conference to celebrate her work and that of ten other scholars as pioneering mentors and scholars of black women's history. She has taught at Howard University, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Temple University. From 2011-2012, she was a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the 2011 Jolyon Pitt Girard Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at Cabrini College, the 2012 Visiting Scholar in Women's and Gender Studies at Drew University, and a Princeton University Center for Religion Visiting Fellow from 2003-2004. She was a finalist for the C.V. Starr Center for the American Experience 2013-2014 Patrick Henry Writing Fellowship. In 2014-2015, she was the William J. Bouwsma Fellow at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle, North Carolina, where she wrote three chapters of her new book project, "She is a Politician: African American Women and Politics".

A specialist in social, cultural, and political history, Collier-Thomas' research focuses on women and African Americans in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her books include Jesus, Jobs, and Justice: African American Women and Religion (2010); Daughters of Thunder: Black Women Preachers and Their Sermons, 1850-1979 (1998). She is also co-editor of Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement (2001); African American Women and the Vote (1997); Vindicating the Race: Contributions to African-American Intellectual History (1996); and co-author of My Soul is a Witness: A Chronology of the Civil Rights Era, 1954-1964 (2000). She is the compiler and editor of A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories, Vols. 1 and 2 (1997, 1999). She has also published over fifty articles.

Collier-Thomas has received many commendations, book prizes, and awards for her scholarship. Her most recent publication - Jesus, Jobs, and Justice - has won book awards from the Organization of American Historians (2010); the Association of Black Women's Historians (2010); the National Women's Political Caucus (2010); and the Temple University Faculty Research Award (2013). Described as "groundbreaking" and "a tour de force," Jesus, Jobs, and Justice was one of three books authored by African Americans, two of which were authored by women, that were reviewed in the New York Times between 2008 and 2010. In 2010, it was a New York Times "editor's choice." Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement was a 2002 Choice Outstanding Book.

Collier-Thomas is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Association for the Study of African American Life and History's Carter Godwin Woodson Distinguished Scholars Medallion (2001); and the U.S. Department of the Interior's Civilian Conservation Service Award (1994) for founding the nation's first museum and archives for African American women. In 1995, she received the American Immigration History Society's Carleton Qualey Prize for the best article published in the Journal of American Ethnic History. In 1997, she received the Association of Black Women's Historians Letitia Woods Brown Anthology Award for African American Women and the Vote. In 1998, she received The National Black Women's Political Caucus' Shirley Chisholm Award for Scholarly Excellence. In the same year, she also received he Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority's Septima Poinsett Clark Award for Daughters of Thunder: Black Women Preachers and Their Sermons.

Collier-Thomas has received multiple research and writing grants from the Lilly Endowment (1991-1998, 2001-2002, 2003-2004); the Ford Foundation (1972-1973, 1999-2001, 2003-2004); the Rockfeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities (1979, 1980). She has held fellowships at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2008-2009); the National Humanities Center (2001-2002); and Princeton University Center for Religion Visiting Fellow (2003-2004). She also served as a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2011-2012), where she conducted research on her current book project. During 2014-2015, she held the William J. Bouwsma Fellowship at the National Humanities Center, where she wrote three chapters of her current book project, "She is a Politician: African American Women and Politics".