Tuskegee students attend the 27th Annual Alabama Women and Others Symposium; Meet and greet famed author


Ala (April 12, 2005) – Five Tuskegee University students have gained a new appreciation of the role of women in literature.  They were among 500 students and faculty who attended the 27th Annual Alabama Women and Others Symposium, held last month at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. 


The symposium is part of The Signs of Race Series on Literature, Race and Ethnicity.  The topic of discussion for this years’ symposium was “Racial and Gender Difference in Anglo-American Literature and Culture,” and the keynote speaker was Alice Walker, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Color Purple.”  Walker’s lecture discussed the roles of female characters in British and American fiction.


Julia Tigner, a senior English major from La Grange, GA., said that it was a great experience to see such an individual such as Alice Walker.


“It gave me motivation and thoughts that, one day, my peers and I may be called to give a keynote address as well,” Tigner said. 


Her fellow students agreed.


“Alice Walker is a staple in African-American and women’s literature,” said Heather Finch, a senior English major from Valley, AL.  “It was amazing to experience the woman who ‘resurrected’ Zora Neale Hurston.”


Mikchayel Yisrael, a senior Business and Information Science major from Chicago, IL said, “It was a very interesting experience to be exposed to the world of English majors.  Alice Walker seemed to be extremely well-spoken and intellectual.”


Also attending the symposium from Tuskegee University were Dalita Piper, a senior English major from Oxon Hill, MD, and Trivius Caldwell, a senior English major from Atlanta, GA.  They are all part of Dr. Xavier Nicholas’ senior seminar class, English 400-01.


“It is very important that our students be exposed to cultural activities outside of the classroom because it broadens their horizon,” said Nicholas.  “When I was a student at Tuskegee in the 1960’s, Dr. Saunders Walker took our class on a trip to Atlanta to see a professional production of Henrik Ibsen’s great play “Hedda Gabler.”  I have never forgotten that.  So I wanted to provide the same kind of opportunity for our students.  They have read Alice Walker’s works in the classroom and the symposium served as an extension of the classroom by giving them the opportunity to meet and greet Alice Walker up close and personal.”


Professor Nicholas and his students were accompanied by Professor Ruffer Johnson, a faculty member in the Department of Social Work and a graduate of Tuskegee University, who served as a faculty adviser.


“This trip would not have been possible,” said Nicholas, “without the support and assistance of Professor Johnson.  “He gave the students a guided tour of the University of Alabama campus as well as the city of Tuscaloosa.  His help was just invaluable.”


Sponsors of the symposium included Professor Johnson’s spouse, Dr. Rhoda Johnson, who is an Associate Professor of Women's Studies at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and a graduate of Tuskegee University.  Dr. Johnson arranged for the students to meet Alice Walker at the Sheldon State Community College’s C.A. Fredd Campus, where Walker held a two-hour question and answer session with more than 200 high school and college students.


“Meeting Alice Walker was a very fascinating experience,” said Dalita Piper.  “To actually meet an African-American woman who has done so much to add to the African-American vernacular tradition was a real honor, adding to my Tuskegee experience.”


Alice Walker’s presence was remarkable,” added Caldwell.  “She didn’t have to say anything; you just knew by her demeanor that she possessed a gift."

(Article posted April 12, 2005)