The Center for the Education of Women kicked off its fall symposium, themed “Creating Change through Introspection, Dialogue and Action,” featuring Martha S. Jones, a history professor at John Hopkins University, as the keynote speaker. Jones discussed the history behind her new book “Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote and Insisted on Equality for All” on Friday afternoon.

The event began with commending the 2020-21 Carol Hollenshead Inspire Award winners. The award, which is named after a former CEW+ director, recognizes an individual from any of the three University campuses who makes sustained efforts to promote lasting social change in their communities. Music, Theatre & Dance professor Kate Fitzpatrick-Harnish, Social Work professor Rogério M. Pinto and Reshma Jagsi, director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine — all professors in Ann Arbor — were the winners for this year.

Fitzpatrick-Harnish spoke about her experience as a band teacher at Northland High School in Columbus, Ohio and about historic marginalization in music education.

“The reality of arts education today, however, is that the greatest access to the arts is provided within our most well-resourced schools for our most well-resourced children, provoking profound questions of equity, marginalization and oppression that often follow racial and socioeconomic lines,” Fitzpatrick-Harnish said

Jones then spoke about the inspiration behind her new book — women like journalist Ida B. Wells and Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer — and gave a brief preview into Black women’s fight for the vote and pursuit of political power.

Jones said she was inspired by Kamala Harris’s acceptance speech for Democratic vice presidential nominee back in August. 

“This is the story of ‘Vanguard,’ the story that explains for us, I hope, how someone like Kamala Harris comes to be,” Jones said. “The force of Black women in 21st century politics is not the force of unicorns, it is not the effect of women dropping from the sky or emerging out of nowhere. It is, in my telling, the end result of two hundred years of Black women’s thought, of their political philosophy and their profoundly tenacious, persistent and courageous activism.”

Jones then spoke about systemic voting oppression in the U.S. and emphasized that the fight for voting rights is far from over in marginalized communities. 

“The poll taxes and literacy tests and grandfather clauses of 1920 continue in the form of voter ID laws, shuttered polling places, the purging of voter rolls, exact match requirements,” Jones said. “Which continue to deprive Americans of color, including Black American women, of the vote.”

Graduate student Julia McDaniel said Jones’s remarks resonated with her and showed her how Black women paved the way for intersectional equity.

“More than ever, I think it is important for us to understand how far back the history of systemic racism and the fight against it truly goes,” McDaniel said. “Only then can we understand what fight we are actually in.”

Before concluding her book preview, Jones expressed her appreciation for the women of “Vanguard.” She praised the 1920s Black suffragists for understanding that Black women’s entrance into the political field would be a long, rewarding process.

“Black women, across a broad swath, were prepared, (and) had long been preparing themselves for just that moment,” Jones said. “There’s nothing token about Kamala Harris. She emerges out of this force.”

Daily News Contributor Vanessa Kiefer can be reached at

Correction: A preivous version of this article stated that Fitzpatrick-Harnish taught at Northwood High School instead of Northland.

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