Hettie V. Williams, Ph.D., associate professor of African America history, and Melissa Ziobro, curator at the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music and specialist professor of public history, recently published “A Seat at the Table: Black Women Public Intellectuals in US History and Culture” (University Press of Mississippi, 2023). The book is a follow-up to Williams’ previous work, “Bury My Heart in a Free Land: Black Women Intellectuals in Modern U.S. History” (Praeger, 2017).
While Black women’s intellectual history continues to grow as an important subfield in historical studies, there remains a gap in scholarship devoted to the topic. “A Seat at the Table” seeks to fill this void, presenting essays curated by Williams and Ziobro on African American women within the larger context of American intellectual history. The work includes contributions from Omar H. Ali, Simone R. Barrett, Tejai Beulah, Sandra Bolzenius, Carol Fowler, Lacey P. Hunter, Tiera C. Moore, Tedi A. Pascarella, John Portlock, Lauren T. Rorie, Tanya L. Roth, Marissa Jackson Sow, and Virginia L. Summey, as well as Williams and Ziobro.
“‘A Seat at the Table’ is a must-read for scholars and students of African American history writ large and Black intellectual history in particular,” remarks Christopher Cameron, Ph.D., professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Divided into four parts, the volume features women in politics, art, government, journalism, media, education, and the military with essays from prominent figures including Shirley Chisholm, Oprah Winfrey, journalist Charlotta Bass, and anti-abortion activist Mildred Fay Jefferson. Taken as a whole, “A Seat at the Table” is an important anthology that helps to establish the validity and existence of heretofore neglected intellectual traditions in the public square.
“Dr. Williams is the driving force behind this beautiful book,” said Ziobro. “[She] was kind enough to let me assemble a section of the book titled, ‘Black Women’s Patriotism: The National Good, Military Service, and Everyday Intellectualism.’” Ziobro, who completed her master’s thesis on women in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during WWII and worked as a historian for the U.S. Army out of college, worked with co-author Carol Fowler, museum assistant curator at NJDMAVA, on the chapter, “Regardless of What Life Presents You.” The pair reviewed scores of oral history interviews from the Library of Congress Veterans History Project to let veterans discuss, in their own words, why they served and what it meant to them.
“These stories have gone unexplored for far too long,” she added.
Williams and Ziobro are both Monmouth alumnae, with Williams earning her master’s degree in 1999, and Ziobro earning her undergraduate degree in 2004 and master’s degree in 2007.