Provost Conference Series Begins with Classics and Classical Education in the Black Community

November 2, 2022

Classical scholars and advocates of classical education will discuss the engagement of Black Americans with the classical tradition and their vision for its future

Media Contact: Shelby Cefaratti-Bertin, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-327-8012
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WACO, Texas (Nov. 2, 2022) – The Baylor University Provost Conference Series will present its inaugural event, Classics and Classical Education in the Black Community, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in room 506 of the Cashion Academic Center. The conference is sponsored by the Office of the Provost and Department of Classics at Baylor.

Within the classical tradition, Americans of all races have found calls to freedom, justice and other high ideals. Today, even as some question the role of the Classics, classical education is experiencing a renaissance with the voices of Black Americans essential to ensuring that this renewed educational foundation is equitable and enduring.

The conference "brings to light a crucial aspect of American history that has not received sufficient attention," said Julia D. Hejduk, Ph.D., The Rev. Jacob Beverly Stiteler Professor of Classics and associate dean of the Honors College at Baylor.

"Historically, classical education formed a major bridge between Black and white Americans," Hejduk said. "For instance, when Frederick Douglass encountered Cicero as a boy, it helped inspire his thoughts about freedom and human dignity, gave him a language with which to express those thoughts powerfully and helped him to form a bond with Abraham Lincoln because of their shared relationship with the most eloquent of the Romans."

"The humanities' Great Conversation is strengthened and enriched by the perspectives of people of different backgrounds, identities and experiences," Hejduk said. Many of the classic works that have survived have done so because they wrestle powerfully with human suffering - war, slavery, exile and imperialism.

"The experience of suffering is part of the DNA of African and Black Americans, who have historically felt the precariousness of life in a way similar to many in the societies that produced our classic texts," She said.

The presenters at the conference are prominent Black classicists and advocates of classical education, with expertise in fields ranging from sociology to Greek drama:

  • Eric Ashley Hairston, Ph.D., associate dean for academic advising, associate professor of interdisciplinary humanities and interim chair of the classics department at Wake Forest University, "Education and Identity in Classica Africana."
  • Allannah Karas, Ph.D., assistant professor of classics at the University of Miami, "Mixed Media: Black American Artists and the Classical Tradition."
  • Angel Adams Parham, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology and senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, "A DuBoisian Vision for Today’s Classical Education."
  • Anika K. Prather, Ph.D., director for high quality curriculum and instruction at the Institute for Education Policy at Johns Hopkins University, "Narrative of Hope: How Classical Education Helped African Americans Find Their Place in America’s History."
  • Patrice Rankine, Ph.D., professor in classics at the University of Chicago, "Performance and the Problem of Blackness: Wole Soyinka's Bacchae in 1970s America."

The Provost Conference Series introduces and encourages discussion on important and timely questions by bringing together experts in a particular discipline to share their insights with a wider audience. This conference presents a crucial focus on Black intellectual tradition - past, present and future - and is a vital part of a larger conversation about education altogether.

"Should education be focused on utility, training people for a career that makes money, as Booker T. Washington argued? Should it be an exploration of the best that has been thought and said, fueling the mind in its quest for the good, the true and the beautiful, as W. E. B. Du Bois argued? Should it be a combination of these things, as Anna Julia Cooper argued?" Hejduk said. "For Black Americans in the post-civil war era, being educated in schools and colleges at all was a new and dearly bought right, and these questions had a particular urgency. Their 'defamiliarization' and fresh perspective can help us think through these issues, which are still pressing today." The conference is free and open to the public. Registration is available on the conference website.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. 


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