Please join us as Dr. Michele Ronnick presents "Black Classicism and Black Intellectual Life in Oklahoma and Beyond" on Wednesday, April 22nd from 1:30-2:30 in Bizzell's Community Room (LL118). The presentation is in conjunction with 14 Black Classicists: A Photographic Exhibit
, now on display on the main floor of Bizzell. This event is made possible with funding from the College of Arts & Science with support from the Classics & Letters and African-American Studies departments.About the Speaker
Michele Valerie Ronnick is Professor in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Wayne State University in Detroit. Her work includes studies of Latin literature, the classical tradition and particularly its reception by people of African descent. Her books include Cicero’s Paradoxa Stoicorum: A Commentary, an Interpretation, and a Study of Its Influence (1991), The Autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough: An American Journey from Slavery to Scholarship
(2005), and William Sanders Scarborough: Black Classicist and Race Leader
(2006). Framing the Exhibit @ OUBy Dr. Samuel Huskey, Chair, OU Department of Classics & Letters
Almost everywhere you look at OU, you’ll find evidence of the ideals and concepts bequeathed to us by classical Greek and Roman civilization.
You can’t utter a sentence about OU without using a word with Greek or Latin roots. The campus, “beautiful by day and night,” comes from the Latin word for “field.” “Dorm” comes from the Latin word for “sleep.” Anthropology, biology, and psychology come from the Greek words for the study of human beings, life, and the mind, respectively. The library is literally a place for books (libri)—though it houses so much more today. We can’t forget the people at OU: the words student, professor, dean, president, alumni, regent, donor, athlete, and scholar all have roots in Greek or Latin.
The architecture also recalls Greco-Roman civilization. The Doric columns of the Carnegie Building and the Boyd House recall the temples of Athens and Rome. Representations of the Greek drachma and the Roman sestertiusadorn the south entrance to Adams Hall. The arches that mark the entrance to our campus echo the commemorative arches that still stand in Rome.
And, of course, there’s the stadium.
You don’t have to look further than the seal of the university to find the influence of classical antiquity. The mottoCivi et Reipublicae elegantly sums up OU’s mission: “for the benefit of the citizen and the state.”
The seal also indicates that OU was founded in 1890. In that same year, President David Ross Boyd selected a classicist, William N. Rice, as the first member of the University of Oklahoma’s faculty. Classics, therefore, has always been a part of OU’s history.
Unfortunately, it has not always been available to every Oklahoman. It would be almost sixty years before Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher and George W. McLaurin challenged the system of segregation that kept the university’s motto from applying to all citizens.
But segregation of a different kind persists at OU and most other universities: the segregation of scholarly disciplines. Classics is a good example. By privileging the culture and civilization of the ancient Greeks and Romans, the scholarly discipline of Classics overlooks the achievements of ancient civilizations that flourished in Africa, Asia, North and South America, and all around the world. It is no wonder that Classics departments have always struggled with diversity, when even the word “Classics” reveals a bias toward a distinctly European culture.
The purpose of this exhibit is to challenge those notions by celebrating African-American scholars who chose to study Greco-Roman civilization for its universal, human appeal, even in a time when most universities were closed to them. The scholars pictured here call us to expand our own notions of “classical,” to be more aware of other cultures, ancient and modern. They call us to challenge the segregation of academic disciplines.