Johnnetta Betsch Cole to Deliver the 2021 Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecture


ACLS is pleased to announce that anthropologist, distinguished educator, and museum professional Johnnetta Betsch Cole will deliver the Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecture virtually the afternoon of Thursday, May 20, 2021 at 3:00 pm ET.

Register now for this virtual event.

Johnnetta Betsch Cole is a noted author and speaker on issues of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion, and a committed advocate for social justice. She currently serves as the National Chair and Seventh President of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), an advocacy organization with more than 2 million members, working in the interest of women’s rights and civil rights.

Dr. Cole rose to national prominence as the first African American woman President of Spelman College and, later, as President of Bennett College, making her the only person to serve as president of both historically Black colleges for women in the United States. Over the course of her career, she has held teaching and administrative positions in anthropology, women’s studies, and African American studies at several major colleges and universities.

After retiring from academia, Dr. Cole served as the Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art for eight years. Upon her retirement from the Smithsonian, she received the title of Director Emerita. Following her years at the Smithsonian, Dr. Cole was a Principal Consultant with Cook Ross, a management consulting firm, where she co-led a Chief Diversity Officer Leadership Forum and worked with various companies to create more inclusive and equitable workplaces. As a Senior Consulting Fellow at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, she worked on initiatives on diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in art museums and higher education.

Dr. Cole has a long history of community service. She was the first African American to serve as the Chair of the Board of United Way of America. Recently she was on the board of Martha’s Table, a nonprofit that supports children, families, and communities in Washington, D.C. through quality education, healthy food, and community support. She has also held leadership positions in a number of professional organizations, including the Association of Art Museums Directors where she served as the president, and she co-led the American Alliance Museum’s Working Group on diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion.

Dr. Cole has served on the corporate boards of Home Depot, Merck, and Nation’s Bank South, and was the first woman appointed to the board of Coca-Cola Enterprises. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the American Anthropological Association, a member of the Association of Black Anthropologists, and the Scholarly Advisory Council of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.  She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., The Links, Inc., and a Life Member of the NAACP.

Johnnetta Betsch Cole has authored, co-authored, and edited several books and numerous articles for scholarly and general audiences. Her most recent book, Racism in American Public Life: A Call to Action, was published by the University of Virginia Press in February 2021. Among her books are the following: All American Women - Lines That Divide Ties That Bind; Anthropology for the Nineties Introductory Readings; Edited With Rudolph P. Byrd and Beverly Guy-Sheftall, I AM Your Sister- Collected And Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde; Edited With Laura L. Lott, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion In Museums.

Dr. Cole began her higher education in an early entrance program at Fisk University, and completed her undergraduate studies at Oberlin College. She earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in anthropology with a specialization in African Studies from Northwestern University. Throughout her career, Dr. Cole has addressed issues concerning Africa and the diaspora. In her published work, speeches, and community service, she often speaks to issues of racial, gender, and other systems of inequality.

Named for the first chairman of ACLS (1920-26), the Haskins Prize Lecture series is entitled “A Life of Learning” and celebrates scholarly careers of distinctive importance. The lectures are published in the ACLS Occasional Paper series and made available on the ACLS website (see Haskins Prize Lectures).