Wednesdays at the Center :: Natanya Duncan, Credit For What We Do: The Efficient Women of the Universal Negro Improvement Association

Date: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Location: Room 240, John Hope Franklin Center

Series organized by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the John Hope Franklin Center; this program presented by the FHI

UPDATED: Click image to left to launch full video of this talk; see this blog post for link to a clip on the Black Cross Nurses and some context. Watch clip [Youtube]

Women of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) defied prescribed notions of domestic duty; blurred the lines drawn for “true” women in the early 20th Century; derived their respectability through a practice of nationalist politics in public places resulting in an efficient womanhood that set the stage for what are now known as womanist consciousness and  black feminist politics.  While UNIA women helped set the stage for the development of the latter ideals and in varying ways demonstrated the virtues of the “Cult of True Womanhood” and “the politics of respectability,” their activism reached further than expressions of Victorian Motherhood andtheir endeavor to lift as they climbed meant leaving no person of African descent behind. At times their tactics seem to contradict their aims and the results of their efforts were not always immediately evident. "Credit for What We Do" seeks to highlight just some of the contributors and contributions  that resulted in an all encompassing visionary approach to race progress that reveals another root of the nascent Civil Rights Movement tree. A root in desperate need of both study and nurture. 

Natanya Duncan is Mellon HBCU Faculty Fellow at the FHI for 2010-11. She is currently at work on a history of women activists in the UNIA. (For more information about the HBCU Fellowship program, click here.)


Wednesdays at the Center (WATC) is a topical weekly noontime series in which scholars, artists, journalists, and others speak informally about their work in conversation with the audience. The series is jointly organized and presented by the John Hope Franklin Center and, beginning Spring 2011, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and co-sponsored by the Franklin Humanities Institute. All events in the series are free and open to the public. A light lunch is served - no reservations are necessary.

The Franklin Center is located at 2204 Erwin Road, on the corner of Erwin and Trent. Vouchers to cover parking costs in the Duke Medical Center parking decks - #2 and #3 in this map - are provided.