2017 Hortense Parker Celebration: Collective Concern, Collective Power

Please join us for this year's Hortense Parker Celebration featuring keynote speakers are Whitney Battle-Baptiste, Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Center at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Kymberly Newberry, class of 2015. A reception will follow.

The Hortense Parker Celebration was founded in 2009 by Ahyoung An ’09 and Camila Curtis-Contreras ’09.  The event was created to “raise awareness in the College community of the history and the achievements of women of color at Mount Holyoke, and to celebrate women of color at Mount Holyoke—past, present, and future.”

This important event is named after Hortense Parker, Mount Holyoke’s first African American alumna, who graduated in 1883, less than two decades after slavery was abolished in the United States. Although officials were unaware that Parker was African American until she arrived on campus in 1878, she was allowed to enroll in classes and live on campus despite the segregationist practices of the time.  While at Mount Holyoke, Parker was known on campus for her musical ability and was frequently asked to play the piano for students and faculty.

The first annual Hortense Parker celebration was held in April of 2009 and included a song performed by three of Mount Holyoke’s a cappella groups, a screening and discussion of Experienced Diversity, by Ahyoung An ’09 and Camila Curtis-Contreras ’09, and a keynote address by Barbara Smith ’69.  The founders hoped this event would help launch discussions around “work that can be done in the future to strengthen the College’s commitment to diversity.”

Each year the celebration grows and evolves, with a unifying theme connecting the festivities and an annual student essay contest with prizes ranging from $100.00 to $500.00. The 2017 theme is "Collective Concern, Collective Power", signifying that "there is power in numbers and it takes everyone (the entire MHC community) as a collective to create true change". Visit the essay contest page to learn more and enter the essay contest.

Whitney Battle-Baptiste

2017 Hortense Parker Keynote Speaker

Whitney Battle-Baptiste, a native of the Bronx, New York, is a scholar and activist who sees the classroom and the campus as a space to engage contemporary issues with a sensibility of the past. Her academic training is in history and historical archaeology.  Her research is primarily focused on how the intersection of race, gender, class and sexuality look through an archaeological lense.  Her work ranges from interpreting captive African domestic spaces at Andrew Jackson's Hermitage Plantation, to the early history of school segregation in Boston at the Abiel Smith School on Beacon Hill, to the W. E. B. Du Bois Homesite (or House of the Black Burghardts) in Great Barrington, Mass., or the complexities of creating a community-driven heritage tourist site at Millars Plantation, on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera - her ability to translate material culture and artifacts into complex interpretations of African American domestic life has made her a pioneer in her field. Her first book, Black Feminist Archaeology (Left Coast Press, 2011), outlines the basic tenets of Black feminist thought and research for archaeologists and shows how it can be used to improve contemporary historical archaeology as a whole. At the moment, she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and serves as the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Center at UMass Amherst.