HomeLearning CenterThe Importance of Black Women on College Boards of Trustees

The Importance of Black Women on College Boards of Trustees

Originally published by Marybeth Gasman for Forbes

Black Woman on Board (University of Rochester Press) is a new book by Donna J. Nicol. In an era of fierce dismantling of affirmative action, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives across the nation, it is a vital read for those who care about equity in higher education.

Nicol’s book chronicles Claudia Hampton’s work as a Black woman on the board of trustees of the California State University (CSU) System. Hampton pushed for 20 years to enforce affirmative action and to prevent any forces that sought to dismantle it. She was appointed in 1974 as the first Black woman trustee.

Hampton was a school teacher in the Los Angeles area for many years. Her commitment to equity and diversity were recognized early on and, in 1968 she was appointed director of the newly formed Schools and Community Relations Unit for the Office of Urban Affairs. The office was created after the 1965 Watts Rebellion. While serving in this position, Hampton earned a doctoral degree in education in 1970 from the University of Southern California. During the course of her career, she was deeply involved with the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).This experiences shaped her educational activism once she was named to the CSU board.

In exploring the work of Hampton, Nicol does more than focus on her being the first Black woman trustee. Instead, she explores institutional policies and state mandates on affirmative action as well as the Black cultural politics of the time. Nicol showed how Hampton had to be pragmatic in her approach on the board; she had to be strategic and know when to compromise.

Nicol as the author found herself learning an immense amount during the writing process — including that pragmatism is a way to accomplish goals along with radicalism. She learned to have more respect for pragmatic leaders like Mary Mcleod Bethune and Booker T. Washington alongside more radical individuals like W.E.B. Du Bois. She emerged from her research with a new perspective — “one that embraced and valued multiple approaches and methods to social justice.”

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