Johnnetta B. Cole
|Johnnetta B. Cole|
|Born||October 19, 1936
|Institutions||National Museum of African Art
|Alma mater||Oberlin College (B.A)
Northwestern University (M.A.) (PhD)
Johnnetta Betsch Cole (born October 19, 1936) is an American anthropologist, educator and museum director. Cole was the first African-American female president of Spelman College, a historically black college, serving from 1987 to 1997. She was president of Bennett College from 2002 to 2007.
Since 2009, she has been Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art, located in Washington, DC. In 2013, the Winston-Salem Chronicle described Cole as a distinguished educator, cultural anthropologist, and humanitarian.
Johnnetta Betsch was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1936. She is a granddaughter of Florida's first black millionaire Abraham Lincoln Lewis and Mary Kingsley Sammis. Sammis' great-grandparents were Zephaniah Kingsley, a slave trader and slave owner, and his wife and former slave Anna Madgigine Jai, originally from present-day Senegal. Her Fort George Island home is protected as Kingsley Plantation, a National Historic Landmark.
Cole enrolled at age 15 in Fisk University, a historically black college. She transferred to Oberlin College in Ohio, where she completed a B.A. in anthropology in 1957. She did field research in Liberia, West Africa, in 1960-61. She attended graduate school at Northwestern University, earning her master's (1959) and Ph.D. (1967) in anthropology.
Cole taught briefly at UCLA (1964) and directed the Black Studies program at Washington State University at Pullman (1969–70). She started in 1970 in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, were she served until 1983. She also was provost of undergraduate education from 1981 to 1983. While at the University of Massachusetts, she played a pivotal role in the development of the university's W.E.B. Du Bois Department of African-American Studies.
In 1983, Cole joined the faculty of Hunter College, where she directed the Latin American and Caribbean Studies program. Beginning in 1997, Cole also taught in the Anthropology department of Emory University, where she is now Presidential Distinguished Professor Emerita.
In 1987, Cole was selected as the first black female president of Spelman College, a prestigious historically black college for women. She served until 1997, building up their endowment through a $113 million capital campaign, attracting significantly higher enrollment as students increased, and overall raising the ranking of the school among the best liberal arts schools went up. Bill and Camille Cosby contributed $20 million to the capital campaign.
After teaching at Emory University, she was recruited as president of Bennett College for Women, also a historically black college for women. There she led another successful capital campaign. In addition, she founded an art gallery to contribute to the college's culture. Cole is currently the Chair of the The Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity & Inclusion Institute founded at Bennett College for Women. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
Cole has also served in major corporations; she has been a director of Merck & Co. since 1994. She is the first woman elected to the board of Coca Cola. From 2004 to 2006, Cole was the Chair of the Board of Trustees of United Way of America and is on the Board of Directors of the United Way of Greater Greensboro. in the year of 2002.
President-elect Bill Clinton appointed Cole to his transition team for education, labor, the arts and humanities in 1992. Clinton considered her for the Cabinet post of Secretary of Education, but once the Jewish Daily Forward reported that she had been a member of the national committee of the Venceremos Brigades, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation had tied to Cuban intelligence forces, Clinton did not advance her nomination.
Legacy and honors
- In 2013, Cole received the highest citation of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, the Alston-Jones International Civil and Human Rights Award.
- Cole has received honorary degrees from Williams College and Bates College in 1989, Oberlin College in 1995, Mount Holyoke College in 1998, Mills College in 1999, and Howard University and North Carolina A&T State University in 2009.
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I pose that question to myself, why, in the 107 years of the history of this historically Black college for women, there has not been an African-American woman president.—Johnnetta B. Cole
This is a nation whose spoken and written vision is chillingly beautiful.—Johnnetta B. Cole
The more we pull together toward a new day, the less it matters what pushed us apart in the past—Johnnetta B. Cole
We are for difference: for respecting difference for allowing difference, for encouraging difference, until difference no longer makes a difference.—Johnnetta B. Cole
The ultimate expression of generosity is not in giving of what you have, but in giving of who you are.—Johnnetta B. Cole
- "Johnnetta B. Cole, PhD" at the Academy of Achievement
- Trescott, Jacqueline (February 10, 2009). "Johnnetta Cole Named New Director of the National Museum of African Art". The Washington Post; accessed October 5, 2011.
- "Sit-in museum to present awards". The Winston-Salem Chronicle. February 1, 2013. Retrieved April 11, 2013.
- Jackson, Antoinette; Burns, Allan (January 2006). Ethnohistorical Study of the Kingsley Plantation Community, National Park Service, p. 24.
- Jacqueline Trescott, "Johnnetta Cole Named New Director of the National Museum of African Art", Washington Post, February 10, 2009.
- Mezger, Roger (September 05, 2008). "Workplace diversity: Numbers aren't enough, speaker says", The Plain Dealer; accessed October 5, 2011.
- "Dr. Johnnetta Cole". United Way of America; accessed October 07, 2011.
- "Shifting Paradigms: Progressive Pathways to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion?", Ohio State University; accessed October 7, 2011.
- Makers profile: Johnnetta Cole, Groundbreaking Scholar & College President
- President of Spelman College, Johnnetta Cole, Fresh Air program, 1993
- Susan Chira. Conversations/Johnnetta B. Cole; A Scholar's Convictions Keep Her Pushing the Power of Words, New York Times, Jan. 10, 1993
- "Keys to Success - The American Dream". Academy of Achievement. Retrieved November 24, 2007.
- "State of the City Address, Mayor Shirley Franklin". City of Atlanta Online. January 5, 2004. Retrieved November 24, 2007.
- "Volunteer Opportunities". Sandiego.gov; accessed October 5, 2011.
- Gale biography
- Voices from the Gaps biography`
- 1998 commencement speech, Mount Holyoke College
- 2009 State-of-the-College Address, Oberlin College
- Johnnetta Cole Video produced by Makers: Women Who Make America