Shining a Light on the Pioneering Contributions of Black Women Suffragists

Black women—from Sojourner Truth in the 1850s to Georgia’s Stacy Abrams today—have played a key role in the fight for voting rights for African Americans. Now, a special Maryland Public Television (MPT) presentation jointly sponsored by UMGC and Morgan State University highlights the work of these pioneering women, whose contributions have been largely obscured in the historic record.

The program highlights the work of Dr. Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, a Morgan State professor who established the university’s first PhD in history program and co-founded the Association of Black Women Historians. Her groundbreaking books revealed—often for the first time— how African American women kept the voting rights struggle alive.

All four panelists on the MPT program were trained by Terborg-Penn, including Dr. Damon Freeman, director of the history and African American studies program at UMGC.

Another panelist, Dr. Toya Corbett, assistant vice president for student affairs in the University of North Carolina System, spoke of how important Terborg-Penn’s work was in uncovering voices that were never included in history.

“[We] were made to believe that Black women did not have a role in building this country or in the suffrage movement or any other movement,” Corbett said, adding that Terborg-Penn had challenged that narrative head on.  “She inspired us to give voice to the voiceless.”

Freeman said Terborg-Penn opened a field of historic research that did not previously exist. Historians of that era did not consider Black women to be involved in the suffrage movement. Perhaps because White women had not welcomed Black women into the movement.

“They were invisible,” he said. 

Yet, beginning in the 1890s, Black women created a “Women’s Club movement” that is crucial if one is to understand their role in the suffrage movement, he said.  These clubs fought for voting rights and economic independence and against lynching. This is the work that Terborg-Penn painstakingly uncovered.

But the panelists pointed out that, even as one acknowledges these contributions, one must also recognize that the struggle for Black voting rights continues. It is never a straight-line process from total exclusion to full equality.

“As soon as you have political power, you have a backlash,” said Gloria Browne-Marshall, professor of constitutional law at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

The first such backlash came in the 1870s after the 15th Amendment was passed, allowing Blacks to vote. Whites staged violent protest in an effort to stop Blacks from voting, creating systemic barriers that persisted until the 1960s Civil Rights movement.

Now, another backlash is apparent, one that started in 2013 when the Supreme Court gutted those parts of the Voting Rights Act that required the Justice Department to review changes in voting procedures in states that had a history of denying Blacks the right to vote. It accelerated after the 2020 election when minority votes helped win Democrat Joe Biden’s election.

“They [Republicans] saw how we were able to unify, and what the Black community can achieve when we come together,” Browne-Marshall said. “The challenge to voting rights is to disenfranchise us again.”

As a resident of North Carolina, she said, she sees consistent challenges to voting rights, including recent changes pushed through by the state’s Republican-dominated legislature

Noting Stacy Abrams work in organizing the vote in Georgia in the 2020 election, in the two U.S. Senate elections in the state, and in the fight against recent voting regulations, Freeman said, “Black women are crucial to Black voting rights and getting people elected to office.”

Former U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., also acknowledged the continuum from Sojourner Truth to Stacy Abrams.

 “The connective tissue is that the fight for Black women’s suffrage is an ongoing struggle,” she said. “So much of what needs to happen in this country is dependent on Black women raising those issues, and we do it through the power of our vote.” 

The virtual program, a part of Women’s History Month, was livestreamed on mpt.org on March 31.  It was moderated by Dr. Kaye Whitehead, an award-winning Maryland radio host and a Morgan State associate professor of communication and African and African American studies.

UMGC Opens Permanent Education Office at Morón Air Base in Spain

Following a tradition that spans more than seven decades of providing education to U.S. military personnel serving overseas, University of Maryland Global Campus has opened a new permanent office at Spain’s Morón Air Force base, which often serves as a jumping-off point for deployment to Africa.

It becomes the university’s 51st permanent location in Europe, and the second in Spain.

“Expanding in Europe demonstrates UMGC’s commitment to providing the best opportunities for American service personnel to access higher education while they are deployed,” said Tony Cho, the university’s vice president and director for Europe. “This is just the latest example as we continually look for additional ways to improve our services on the continent.”

The base is crucial to the American military capability in the Mediterranean and North Africa, he said.

Morón, which is shared with the Spanish Air Force, is located in Andalusia, the country’s southern-most region, near the town of Morón de la Frontera. It is less than an hour away from historic Seville and 75 miles northeast of Naval Station Rota. Its massive flight line, in-ground refueling system, long runway and prime location near the Mediterranean and the Middle East make it an important link in any U.S. operation moving east from the United States.

In 2015, the Spanish government granted the U.S. military a permanent presence on the base, allowing up to 3,000 American troops and civilians of the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Taskforce – Crisis Response – Africa and the 496th Air Base Squadron to be stationed there with up to 40 aircraft.

In the past, UMGC’s presence at the base was using university personnel from Rota to occasionally set up a table to answer questions and to sign up students. This agreement allows for a permanent office, Cho said. The university sought the expansion after Girlie Ann Barcinas, who had worked with UMGC in Bahrain, moved to Morón when her husband was appointed principal at the base Middle School.

The UMGC Europe division was established in Germany in 1949, as the first university to send faculty to educate active-duty U.S. military personnel overseas after WWII. The division provides services to approximately 14,000 students annually in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa (europe.umgc.edu).

Quick Pivot to Remote Learning Spurs Opportunity to Reimagine Academic Integrity Standards

Two transformative forces―the influx of non-traditional students in higher education and the rapid shift to online learning during the coronavirus pandemic―have come together to expose significant shortfalls in outmoded academic integrity standards as well as to highlight the opportunity universities have to reimagine those standards.Continue Reading

UMGC Grad Student, UMBC Alum, Team Up on Winning University System of Maryland Public Health Multimedia Challenge

“3 W’s” Video Is One of Six Creative Multimedia Presentations on Staying Safe, Healthy while Waiting for COVID Vaccination Recognized by USM Task Force and Corporate Sponsors

The duo of University of Maryland Global Campus graduate student Cory Wilkerson and collaborator Stephen Brouillette, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County alumnus, is one of six winning teams announced today by the University System of Maryland (USM) COVID Research & Innovation Task Force as part of its Public Health Challenge, undertaken with the generous support of several local organizations.Continue Reading

MLK Scholar Inspires Next Generation of Civil Rights and Social Justice Activists

The Black Lives Matter Movement is allowing a new generation to define the struggle for equality and to learn who their allies are, Dr. Clayborne Carson told a University of Maryland Global Campus audience gathered virtually on Jan. 21 to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Every generation must determine who we are—and answer the question, “Where are we heading?” he said. Continue Reading

Town Hall to Address Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine

On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day learn more about the vaccine and get answers to commonly asked questions at this University of Maryland Medical System town hall event. Monday, Jan. 18 from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Event to be streamed on FB Live.

Learn more and register.

With the coronavirus still raging globally a year into the pandemic, the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) is sponsoring “Finding Hope on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Day,” a live-streamed town hall event to inform about the virus’s continued harsh impact on health and economic wellbeing—and address questions and concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, particularly for communities of color.

UMMS President and CEO Dr. Mohan Suntha, town hall emcee, and Freeman Hrabowski, president of University of Maryland Baltimore County and town hall moderator, will lead the discussion. They will be joined by panelists:

Fermin Barrueto, Jr., MD, MBA—sr. vice president and chief medical officer, UM Upper Chesapeake Health

Stacy Garrett-Ray, MD, MPH, MBA—vice president/medical director, UMMS Population Health Services Organization

Michelle A. Gourdine, MD—interim chief medical officer/senior vice president, Population Health and Primary Care, UMMS

David Marcozzi, MD, MHS-CL, FACEP—COVID-19 incident commander, UMMS

Joseph L. Wright, MD, MPH—senior vice president/chief medical officer, UM Capital Region Health

Participants are encouraged to visit www.umms.org/FindingHope to register, view videos of UMMS team members receiving and talking about getting the vaccine, get details on how to submit questions for the panelists, and learn how to attend via Zoom, Facebook, or by phone.

COVID-19 is real—and it is devastating. In the United States, more than 20 million people have been infected with the novel coronavirus and more than 375,000 have died. This much-needed discussion offers hope, clarity, and some practical steps forward, as together, we create pathways to end COVID-19.

What:    Finding Hope on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day – A Town Hall on Understanding the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Date:     Monday, Jan. 18

Time:     11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Learn more and register at http://umms.org/FindingHope.

Prince George’s County Executive Alsobrooks Commends UMGC’s New Class of Leaders at 2020 Winter Commencement

“I’m not just addressing graduates, I’m addressing a class of leaders,” Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks told University of Maryland Global Campus degree recipients in a commencement address delivered via video during the university’s 2020 virtual winter commencement program, which launched Saturday, Dec. 19.Continue Reading

Inspiring Messages Come Out on Top (Literally) at UMGC Winter Commencement

The University of Maryland Global Campus Class of 2020 winter graduates attended commencement virtually this year, but that did not stop them from celebrating. Each year, the mortarboards atop graduation caps are adorned by inspired grads, showing their creativity and telling the story of their individual educational journey. This year was not any different. Several weeks prior to the virtual commencement ceremony, graduates were invited to participate in a cap decorating challenge.

Invitations went out to UMGC winter graduates and voting opened on Nov. 18. Grads were able to share their entries on their social media channels to encourage their friends and family to vote for their cap. Voting was encouraged throughout the challenge period, which ended on Dec. 16. Anyone could vote once per cap in a 24-hour period and return to vote again after 24 hours. With 91 caps entered, these graduates collectively gathered 17,897 votes. 

The winner was announced on Dec. 19, the morning of virtual commencement, and was featured on the UMGC virtual commencement website. Marcus Johnson received 4,256 votes for his inspired cap featuring the phrase, “Smart Enough to Save the Day.” Michelle Freeman’s cap took second place with 3,181 votes and Christina Holt’s cap gathered 2,560 votes to place third.

Freeman said the creation of her cap was a family effort; she got help from her niece and nephew to complete it. “I thought this was a great gesture on behalf of the university to get us excited about our ceremony. Although we could not have a formal ceremony due to the pandemic, this friendly competition built up momentum day by day to our virtual ceremony,” she shared.

Holt, who encouraged people to vote for her through her social media channels, said she entered the competition to showcase her crochet artistry.  “I am amazed at how many people came forward to support me during this competition and I am appreciative of every vote I received!”

While Johnson has bragging rights and is featured at the virtual commencement ceremony, all participating graduates are winners, finishing 2020 with a milestone accomplishment.