Berea College has appointed Dr. Alicestyne Turley as the first director of the Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education and Monica Jones as the new director of the Black Cultural Center. Turley will also serve as assistant professor of African and African American Studies. Both appointments will become effective in July, 2012.
The Carter G. Woodson Center, whose namesake became known as “the father of Black history,” will support collaborations among existing programs related to interracial education and other shared commitments to cultural understanding, equality and justice, and will extend the college’s interracial education efforts to other institutions and communities, particularly in the Appalachian region. The center will also build on the college’s historic interracial commitment by supporting the recruitment, retention and academic success of black students through programming, support services, co-curricular programs and leadership development.
Dr. Turley comes to Berea College from the University of Louisville, where she has served as an assistant professor in the department of Pan-African Studies since August 2009. During this time she also served as director of the Underground Railroad Research Program and a Commissioner on the Louisville Landmarks Commission. From 2001-09, Turley served as adjunct professor, founder and director of the Underground Railroad Research Institute at Georgetown College.
Turley earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and sociology from Georgetown College before earning her master’s degree in public policy and administration from Mississippi State University and her doctorate in history from the University of Kentucky.
Monica Jones comes to Berea College from Ohio University, Athens, where she has served as director of diversity for regional campuses since 2009. At the Zanesville campus, she served as director of student services from 2001-09 and as minority student and adult student coordinator from 1998-2001. Jones also served as president of the Martin Luther King Scholarship Fund and the Putnam Underground Railroad Center (PURE).
Jones earned her bachelor’s degree in zoology and her master’s degree in education and higher education administration from Ohio University, Athens, where she is currently pursuing her doctorate in higher education administration.
Establishment of the Woodson Center stems from the college’s 2006 strategic plan revision process mandating that the college reassert interracial education in its contemporary learning, working and living environments. As the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, Berea College’s historic interracial education commitment is foundational, directly articulated in one of the college’s Great Commitments: “To assert the kinship of all people and to provide interracial education with a particular emphasis on understanding and equality among blacks and whites.”
The Woodson Center will be housed on the main floor of the Alumni Building. Renovation is expected to begin in May 2012 and be completed in October. Designed to create an engaging and welcoming space for academic and co-curricular activities, the center will accommodate lectures and banquets while incorporating displays, artifacts and housing Center staff.
The Black Cultural Center will be located within the Woodson Center, but continue to maintain its own identity as a “Gathering Place” for students. The BCC will also feature a resource library for printed and digital artifacts and materials and student work areas.
Academic Vice President and Dean of the Faculty Dr. Chad Berry says the centers will be an important focal point for Berea’s commitment to interracial education. “I believe the Carter G. Woodson Center can indeed help Berea become an even more welcoming and inclusive community, but it cannot tackle this alone,” says Berry. “Every member of Berea College will be needed to achieve the ideal that our founder, John G. Fee, and our great alumnus, Carter G. Woodson, envisioned.”
Dr. William Turner, noted author of “Blacks in Appalachia” and distinguished professor of Appalachian studies at Berea College, says the Woodson Center will impact the college’s commitment to recruiting and retaining black students. “African American students coming [to Berea] presently and in the future should be comforted to know that the college's mission is steadfast in the kind of intentional efforts it undertakes to combat the legacy of the stubborn and many-sided inequalities they face,” says Turner. “The work of the Woodson Center to assist in recruiting them, providing services to assure that they feel welcomed and supported, and to graduating them is simply ‘what we do’ at Berea.
“When they leave and return home, to Appalachia and beyond, their expanded skill sets return to their communities. Individual capacity building and community revitalization starts here at Berea College,” Turner adds.
Born to freed slaves in Appalachian Virginia, Carter G. Woodson was a sharecropper and coal miner before attending Berea College until 1903. In 1912, Woodson became the second black American to earn a doctorate from Harvard University.
In 1915, Woodson helped found the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and later established the “Journal of Negro History” before forming Associated Publishers Press in 1921, which published several of his own works, including “The Mis-education of the Negro,” considered by many to be one of the most important books on education ever written.
In 1926, Woodson founded Negro History Week, which later became Black History Month, celebrated across the U.S. every February. Woodson is quoted as saying, “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world…”
Turley added, “At one time, the study of African American life and culture was not even considered an academic discipline, but now I am honored to be selected to fill this important position as Woodson has become nationally and internationally recognized as the founder of African history in America. The work of the center will seek to instill in every Berean Woodson’s sense of discovery, dedication to academic excellence and commitment to social inclusion that his life and work represent.”
Turley noted that Carter G. Woodson now takes his place in American culture at his alma mater at a time when the nation has elected its first African-American President, the Smithsonian Institution has broken ground for a permanent African-American museum on the Mall in Washington D.C., and where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is now commemorated along the Tidal Basin in a line of sight that includes the Jefferson, Lincoln and Washington Memorials. “It is only fitting,” says Dr. Turley, “that Berea College recognizes this historic opportunity by acknowledging its part in shaping the early academic life of this legendary American.”