Professor from New London chronicles the struggles of black women in academia

Production still from
Production still from "Living Thinkers."

The Connecticut College Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE) will screen the documentary “Living Thinkers: An Autobiography of Black Women in the Ivory Tower” and host a talk with its director at 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26, in the Charles Chu Asian Art Reading Room of the Charles E. Shain Library.

Director Roxana Walker-Canton, a graduate of New London High School, is an assistant professor of visual and performing arts at Fairfield University whose latest film sheds light on the experiences of black women in academia. Her subjects are professors and administrators who share their stories, from childhood to their current lives in the field of education. What they share indicates that despite the success of pioneers like Eva Beatrice Dykes — the first black woman in America to complete the requirements for a doctoral degree — progress for black women in academia is slow and their numbers in higher-ranking administrative positions and tenured faculty positions are low.

Leo Garofalo, associate professor of history and director of the CCSRE, said, “Released in 1997, ‘Shattering Silences’ documented pioneering faculty at the forefront of diversifying U.S. higher education. Sixteen years later, ‘Living Thinkers’ asks several prominent women academics to explain how their personal and educational experiences as Black women shaped their careers.”

Garofalo shares both documentaries with students preparing for graduate school or studying the histories of U.S. inequality, and he found that “students are struck each time by how enduring the obstacles are to women and black women being recognized as the talented and capable scholars and teachers that they are. These thoughtful and nuanced studies should be mandatory viewing for every department chair and administrator in academia. There is so much to learn, and we have so far to go.”

The screening of “Living Thinkers” is free and open to the public. Walker-Canton has also created a "Living Thinkers" exhibit on the first floor of Shain Library that is open to the public through October.

For more information on the documentary screening or the exhibit, email or

September 20, 2013