“From Jacksonville, Florida, to Atlanta, Georgia, it is roughly a one-hour plane trip, 270 miles airport to airport. For me the distance between these two point was not short, nor was it a straight line”
With only a sixth-grade education, her self-made millionaire great-grandfather Abraham Lincoln Lewis — whom she affectionately called “Fafa” — was a benefactor to Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman and Florida Memorial universities. Her father attended Howard University. Her mother, who was registrar at Jacksonville’s Edward Waters College, had graduated from Wilberforce University in 1930.
At just 15 years old, she entered Fisk University. Typified by regular contact with pioneering black librarian Arna Bontemps, she experienced a vibrant collage of African-American culture at Fisk before graduating from Oberlin College.
You know the rest of the still unfolding story… In 1987, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole became Spelman College’s first black woman president, securing a $20 million gift from Bill and Camille Cosby on the occasion of her inauguration — which remains the largest single contribution from individuals to any historically black college. She would go on to raise $113 million for the institution.
After a decade of service to Spelman, Cole assumed the presidency of Bennett College for Women in 2002, the nation’s only other HBCU dedicated to educating black women. Cole retired in 2007, only to be named director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art just two years later.
She is the “Sister President,” and, as keynote speaker of the HBCUstory Symposium 2014, she has made HBCUstory’s boldest dream come true!
And you can too. Help grow HBCUstory’s commitment to the historic mission and contemporary vision of HBCUs. Join Dr. Johnnetta Cole, Dr. Ivory A. Toldson, Deputy Director of the White House’s Initiative on HBCUs, and more than 20 presenters at the HBCUstory Symposium 2014 in Washington, D.C. on October 24 + 25 at the Association of Public Land-grant Universities.