My Visit with Dr. Hine

by Jennifer Francis '03

Breakfast at 8:00 a.m.? I never go to breakfast. But then, Dr. Darlene Clark Hine, one of the most prominent historians on black women, doesn’t come to Claremont every day.

A a dual black studies and American studies major, I was thrilled she was at Scripps to deliver the annual Sojourner Truth Lecture. I was one of a number of students who had the honor of having breakfast with her.

In the Malott Commons, Dr. Hine took an interest in all the studnets at the table, and spoke little of herself. Marisa Reardon ’03 recalls the time as being intimate and engaging. “Dr. Hine gave me inspirational feedback on my plans for the future,” she said.

I couldn’t resist asking her questions about my thesis, which examines the role of black women in the Civil Rights Movement. According to Dr. Hine: “Historians can write the history or anything or anyone, but the historian must decide if that thing, event, person, or group is worthy of investigation; apparently no one had ever thought black women were worth studying. That was the beginning of my commitment to tellig the truth, to shattering the silence about black women in American history.”

I saw Dr. Hine later at her lecture that evening in a packed Humanities Auditorium. Dedicating her lecture to June Jordan and the thee little girls who lost their lives in the Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing, Dr. Hine spoke on “Black Professionals and Race Consciousness: Origins of the Civil Rights Movement, 1940-45.”

Dr. Hine articulated what she considers to be three aspects that provoked blacks to develop the black professional class postemancipation. First, she discussed white separatism: a system of laws and customary practices that prohibited black involvement in public accommodations, especially in the South. OK, this aspect I knew. But the second aspect, black parallelism, which demonstrated how blacks had to erect an entire system of institutions, organizations, and ideoloeies that would allow blacks to survive in the white separatist system, was foreign to me, at least within the framework Dr. Hine presented. The third aspect she discussed was equality of opportunity,which surfaced in the 1930s during the Depression, when blacks decided that black parallelism would no longer work. Black resources could and would no longer accommodate black parallelism, and the only way to survive during this time was to press for equal opportunities. I began to wonder why facets of the black working class were directly affected by these three aspects. When Dr. Hine said that three professional groups were primarily affected black physicians, black nurses, and black lawyers, I began to understand how these three professions laid the foundation for the Civil Rights Movement. Their ability to prosper and develop a black working class in the midst of resistance and opposition was crucial to their continued dedication and involvement before, during, and after the mass Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

Later, in my room, I recalled the day’s events. I considered all the extracurricular lectures I’ve attended in my four years at Scripps. Today’s was definitely at the top of my list.