The life and accomplishments of an
influential leader in the desegregated South
This biography of educational activist and Black studies forerunner Bertha Maxwell-Roddey examines a life of remarkable achievements and leadership in the desegregated South. Sonya Ramsey modernizes the nineteenth-century term “race woman” to describe how Maxwell-Roddey and her peers turned hard-won civil rights and feminist milestones into tangible accomplishments in North Carolina and nationwide from the late 1960s to the 1990s.Born in 1930, Maxwell-Roddey became one of Charlotte’s first Black women principals of a white elementary school; she was the founding director of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Africana Studies Department; and she cofounded the Afro-American Cultural and Service Center, now the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture. Maxwell-Roddey founded the National Council for Black Studies, helping institutionalize the field with what is still its premier professional organization, and served as the 20th National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., one of the most influential Black women’s organizations in the United States.Using oral histories and primary sources that include private records from numerous Black women’s home archives, Ramsey illuminates the intersectional leadership strategies used by Maxwell-Roddey and other modern race women to dismantle discriminatory barriers in the classroom and the boardroom. Bertha Maxwell-Roddey offers new insights into desegregation, urban renewal, and the rise of the Black middle class through the lens of a powerful leader’s life story. Publication of this work made possible by a Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
- 2022 Sonya Y. Ramsey
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