The Martha Swain Speaker Series is bringing Biographer Anastasia Curwood to campus March 30, 2023 for a conversation about the historic political career and black feminist power politics of Shirley Chisholm.  Join us!

This Year's Speaker

“Shirley Chisholm and Black Feminist Politics: A Conversation with Biographer Anastasia Curwood”

shirley chisholm.w300

On March 30, the Martha Swain Speaker Series welcomes Dr. Anastasia C. Curwood, professor of history and director of African American and Africana studies at the University of Kentucky, to campus to highlight the life and legacy of Shirley Chisholm—who made history as the first black woman elected to the US Congress (1968) and the first black candidate to seek a major party’s presidential nomination (1972)—for Women’s History Month 2023. Curwood will discuss her new biography of Chisholm, Shirley Chisholm: Champion of Black Feminist Power Politics (2023), which “interweaves Chisholm's public image, political commitments, and private experiences to create a definitive account of a consequential life. In doing so, Curwood suggests new truths for understanding the social movements of Chisholm's time and the opportunities she forged for herself through multicultural, multigenerational, and cross-gender coalition building” (UNC Press). A book-signing will take place from 3-4 PM at Friendly City Books, and Curwood’s lecture will follow in Nissan Auditorium at 7 PM.

Dr. Curwood's scholarship focuses on the interface between private life and historical context for black Americans in the twentieth century. In particular, she studies the workings of gender in African Americans' social, cultural/intellectual, and political history. Her first book explored marriages between middle-class African Americans in the era of the New Negro and the Great Depression.

MARCH 30 2023
3-4 PM Book Signing at Friendly City Books
7-8 PM Lecture in Nissan Auditorium
More Women's History Month Events

Previous Speakers

"The Power of One:  A Conversation with Authors Sally Palmer Thomason and Jean Carter Fisher"

The Power of One Thomason Fisher Book Cover

In March 2022, Dr. Sally Palmer Thomason and Jean Carter Fisher discussed their book The Power of One: Sister Anne Brooks and the Tutwiler Clinic, about Sister Anne Brooks, a Catholic nun and doctor of osteopathy who for 34 years served Tutwiler in the Mississippi Delta, one of the nation’s most impoverished towns. Starting with only two other nuns and regularly working 12-hour days, Brooks’ patient load—in a region where seven out of ten patients that walked in her door had no way to pay for care—grew from 30-40 individuals per month to more than 8,500 annually. Whether it is Brooks’s efforts to desegregate Tutwiler or provide free healthcare, her constant devotion to others is striking. Thomason and Fisher tell her powerful story, including her tumultuous childhood, how she overcame crippling arthritis in early adulthood, and her near-unprecedented decision to attend medical school at the age of forty, in an inspiring account that draws on excerpts from journal entries, letters, and interviews. 

Sally Palmer Thomason was born, raised, and educated in California but has lived in Memphis for over fifty years. She retired as the dean of continuing and corporate education at Rhodes College and has authored several books, including The Power of One: Sister Anne Brooks and the Tutwiler Clinic and Delta Rainbow: The Irrepressible Betty Bobo Pearson. Both books were published by University Press of Mississippi and co-authored with Jean Carter Fisher, a licensed clinical social worker at Lakeside Behavioral Health System in Memphis, Tennessee, who previously worked at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Dr. Ebony Lumumba on Social Justice in Eudora Welty’s "The Demonstrators" 

The Demonstrators New Yorker Story Welty Lumumba

In her lecture of March 2020 Dr. Ebony Lumumba, Chair of the English Department at Jackson State University, discussed her most recent publication, “Demonstration of Life: Signifying for Social Justice in Eudora Welty’s ‘The Demonstrators’" a chapter in New Essays on Eudora Welty, Class, and Race. Lumumba received her Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Mississippi and was named the Eudora Welty Research Fellow in 2013 and Tougaloo’s Humanities Teacher of the Year in 2014. Dr. Lumumba specializes in post colonial literatures of the Global South and cultural equity in film culture in her research and instruction. 


Our Namesake - Martha H. Swain

swainMartha Swain is a graduate of Starkville High School in Starkville, Mississippi and earned her bachelor's degree from Mississippi State College (now Mississippi State University). She completed both a M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Vanderbilt University and served as a member of the history faculty for 21 years at Texas Women's University, where she received the Cornaro Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1993 and created a scholarship endowment to support history and political science majors. She is the author of two books, Pat Harrison: The New Deal; Years (1978) and Ellen Woodward: New Deal Advocate for Women (1995). She was a co-author of Lucy Somerville Howorth: New Deal Lawyer, Politician and Feminist from the South (2003) and is a co-editor of two volumes of essays, Mississippi Women: Their Histories, Their Lives (2003, 2009). She was the winner of the 1994 Eudora Welty book prize at Mississippi University for Women, the 2002 Dunbar Rowland Award from the Mississippi Historical Society for lifetime contributions to Mississippi History, as well as the 2004 Mississippi Humanities Council's Chair's Award for contributions to public humanities programs. She was president of the Mississippi Historical Society 2005-2006 as well as being a former president of the Southern Association for Women Historians. She was a member of the board of review of the Journal of Southern History, and a long-time member of the review board of the Journal of Mississippi History.