Black Female Philosophers

A group of black female philosophers will meet for the first time at Vanderbilt University next month. Check out this interesting article:

Black Women Seek a Role in Philosophy


When the nation’s black female philosophers meet for the first time next month, the auditorium at Vanderbilt University will have plenty of empty seats. Not because no one is interested in attending, but because fewer than 30 black women are known to hold full-time jobs in the discipline.

The women — plus about a half-dozen black female graduate students — are getting together for the first meeting of the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers. The gathering will be part pep talk, part networking opportunity, and part research seminar.

“If you’re a black woman, you cannot identify with the majority of the people in the profession,” says Kathryn T. Gines, a black assistant professor at Vanderbilt who started the group. She is reminded of her minority status every time she attends the annual meeting of the American Philosophical Association: “How few our numbers really are becomes very daunting when you’re surrounded by a sea of graying, white males with pipes and tweed coats.”

Some women are coming to the meeting in Nashville just so they can meet other philosophers who look like them and who go against the grain by infusing questions of race into their scholarship. “I spend a lot of time being the only woman and the only black person,” says Jacqueline R. Scott, an associate professor of philosophy at Loyola University Chicago. “Every once in a while it hits me, and I wonder what I’m doing here.”

Philosophy is academe’s oldest discipline, yet it wasn’t until 1965 that it granted its first Ph.D. to a black woman — Joyce Mitchell Cook, who earned her degree at Yale University. (She will be honored at the Nashville meeting.) In philosophy, as in most fields, the best-known thinkers have been white men. Unlike such disciplines as English, history, and political science, however, contemporary philosophy has not made much room for minority perspectives, black scholars say. “It is still committed to the mainstream, traditional lines of inquiry,” says Ronald R. Sundstrom, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of San Francisco, who is black.

One response

  1. […] 2007, the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers had their first meeting to gather together women who are in the field. Later in 2011, when The […]

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