Living Thinkers by Roxana Walker-Canton

From the boardroom to the courthouse, Black women have been making strides in every facet of life. Despite our progress,however,  being the only woman of color in the room offers it’s own set of challenges.

Recently, filmmaker and professor Roxana Walker-Canton decided to document the lives of black women in academia. The result, “Living Thinkers: An Autobiography of Black Women in the Ivory Tower,” a film that explores the intersections of race, class, and gender in the lives of black female professors and university administrators.

The film blog Shadow & Act shares the documentary’s focus:

This documentary examines the intersection of race, class, and gender in the experiences of contemporary Black women professors and administrators through their education narratives from girlhood to their present status in academia. Early 20th century trailblazing Black women like Eva Beatrice Dykes who withstood overt racism, sexism and discrimination, to open the doors to higher education for Black women. During the last part of the 20th century, America still witnessed “firsts” with Black women breaking down walls of “segregated” professions in academe. 

More Black women entered the university, secured higher-ranking administrative positions, and achieved tenure and promotion. But the progress continues to be slow and the numbers of Black women in these positions continues to be low. As outsiders within, many 21st century Black women intellectuals find academia to have a “chilly climate,” where they are usually few in number as faculty and top administrators, but in greater numbers as lower ranking staff in housekeeping and in food services. 

In spite of the continued struggles facing this community, African American women in the academy have used the university as a space to find personal identity, give voice to global and community issues facing the black community at large and black women more specifically, and make significant contributions to American intellectual history. Their presence and contributions are rarely acknowledged and valued and the image of African American women as intellectuals, for many, deemed incomprehensible. Living Thinkers reveals the travails, the disappointments and the triumphs of becoming Black women professors in the US.

Check out the trailer below.

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