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Askwith Essentials: Who is Beverly Daniel Tatum?

What you should know about the former President of Spelman College before her talk at the Askwith Forums.

On Tuesday, March 21, the Askwith Forums will host Beverly Daniel Tatum, president emerita of Spelman College, the oldest historically black women’s college in America, for a conversation about leading for racial equity in schools. The forum will be held in conjunction with The Principals’ Center’s Race, Equity, and Leadership in Schools convening. Here’s what you should know before the forum:

A Pioneer in Race Research and Dialogue

Tatum is a clinical psychologist and nationally recognized scholar on race issues in America, and addresses the topic of racial identity both rigorously and accessibly. She is the author of the national bestseller, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria” and Other Conversations About Race, which explores the psychological construction of race and the systemic advantages that define racism, and calls for open discussion of what it means to have privilege and what it might mean to give it up. In her more recent book, Can We Talk About Race? and Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation, Tatum blends public policy with personal experience, probing the causes and consequences of the continued segregation of America’s school system.

As a professor, Tatum taught Psychology of Racism, in which students explored the development of their own racial identities. In her Harvard Educational Review article “Talking about Race, Learning about Racism: The Application of Racial Identity Development Theory in the Classroom,” she collected the journal entries of her students, highlighting the various emotional reactions that her students, especially white students, had to conversations about racial identity. From these journals and her class experience, Tatum outlined a method for teachers to help students frame their experiences in a meaningful way that both validates their emotions and facilitates positive development.

A Leader in Higher Education

Tatum served as the president of Spelman College from 2002 to 2015, leading the college to unprecedented growth in a number of areas. During her tenure, scholarship support for Spelman students doubled and Spelman completed its largest fundraising campaign in its history, driven by record numbers of alumni donations. She also pushed the university to expand its global opportunities and help students build cross-cultural competencies. She also advocated for more environmentally sustainable building policies, convincing the university to only approve of construction and renovations that met at least LEED Silver standards. These accomplishments culminated in her reception of the Carnegie Corporation’s 2013 Academic Leadership Award, making her the first college president in the state of Georgia and the first at an historically black college or university to win the award.

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