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Black women philosophers schedule first conference at Vanderbilt; Keynote speech will address racial violence in Jena, La.

The first conference of an organization of black women philosophers will meet next month at Vanderbilt University and the keynote speech will address racial violence in Jena, La.

The Collegium of Black Women Philosophers will meet Oct. 19-20 at Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center at Vanderbilt. A full schedule of speakers is available at

The conference is free and open to the public.

“There are very very few black women in the discipline of philosophy,” said Kathryn Gines, assistant professor of African American and Diaspora Studies and philosophy, and founder of the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers. “Many don’t get the mentoring they need and end up going into another discipline, or worst-case scenario, leaving the academy altogether. I’m hoping this collegium will help provide that mentoring for black women.”

The keynote address of the conference will be delivered at 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19, by Anita Allen, the Henry L. Silverman Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania. The topic will be “The White-Only Shade Tree: Moral Reflections of Integration Now and Then.”

The lecture will address the moral imperatives of racial integration in light of philosopher Hannah Arendt’s condemnation of African American mothers who sent their children to white schools in the 1950s and the violence that erupted last year in Jena, La., after school officials refused to expel white students who hung nooses to keep black classmates from their high school’s de facto white-only shade tree.

Conference attendees will honor Joyce Mitchell Cook, the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at a 6 p.m. ceremony on Oct. 19. Cook was also the first African American woman to teach philosophy at Yale College and Howard University.

Media Contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS