Lecture will honor forgotten African American suffragist

March 03, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When someone thinks about leaders of the women’s suffrage movement, they likely think of people like Susan B. Anthony and Ida B. Wells. However, Hallie Q. Brown is a name that probably does not come to mind.

On Sept. 2 at noon, the Center for Democratic Deliberation will welcome the University of Minnesota’s Catherine Squires for its annual Kenneth Burke lecture on Brown’s work and how her legacy has been left out of public memory on suffrage. The event will be held via Zoom; registration is available at democracy.psu.edu/burke2020.

Brown was a professor at Wilberforce University, head of the National Association of Colored Women and one of the most acclaimed female speakers of her day. She engaged closely with significant figures in the histories of women’s suffrage and African American freedom, but her achievements are generally omitted from history books.

In her lecture, Squires will use the story of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center in St. Paul, Minnesota as a way to consider relationships among public memory, public voice and public spaces. She will show how African American identity was removed from a broader Midwestern identity and was replaced by a narrative that focused on white settlers.

Brad Vivian, professor of communication arts and sciences and the  the former director of the Center for Democratic Deliberation, said the connections between African American identity and women’s suffrage are particularly relevant as the U.S. marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

"Catherine Squires is a leading figure in the study of communication and rhetoric. Her award-winning research investigates interactions between social identities, media discourses, and publics — especially concerning questions of race and gender,” Vivian said. “Her research and teaching is also notably connected to community affairs, involving local African American history and publicly oriented creative projects.”

The Kenneth Burke Memorial Lecture honors the legacy of the American literary theorist, poet, essayist and novelist for which it is named. Burke taught at University Park; his papers are archived in the University Libraries.

Last Updated July 24, 2020