Spelman College Makes History As First HBCU To Create Queer Studies Chair

Audre Lorde

Spelman College Makes History As First HBCU To Create Queer Studies Chair

Philanthropist Jon Stryker donated $2 million to the college.

Published October 31st

Written by Vanessa Etienne

Spelman College announced Tuesday (Oct. 29) that the school will establish a queer studies chair after billionaire philanthropist Jon Stryker donated $2 million

The position will be the first-ever of its kind at a historically Black college or university (HBCU). The chair will be named after Audre Lorde, a Black lesbian activist and poet who spoke several times at the school.

Students at the country’s oldest HBCU for women will be able to “deepen their understanding around the study of sexuality and gender,” said Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell in a statement.

Campbell said it was an honor to name the position after Lorde as she is a “literary luminary and fierce activist.” Her children expressed their approval stating Spelman is the “ideal home” for it.

"Our mother was deeply committed to LGBTQ youth and believed passionately in the power of scholarship, which to her meant learning plus excellence,” said Audre Lorde’s children, Jonathan Rollins and Beth Lorde Rollins, in a Spelman press release. “She knew Spelman is a place where that magic happens, which is why she wanted her papers there, and she would be thrilled at this gift."

Stryker, founder of Arcus Foundation, a social justice charitable organization, has made a name for himself by supporting the advancement of LGBTQ human rights. With the queer studies chair, the college will increase the number of LGBTQ-related courses offered and allow students to pursue a concentration in queer studies.

The chair will be connected to Spelman’s comparative women’s studies program at the school’s Women’s Research and Resource Center. 

“Spelman College has long been at the forefront of LGBTQ inclusion and education among HBCUs,” said Stryker in a statement from the college. “By supporting this chair, the goal is to engage and empower the next generation of LGBTQ advocates to create a better world.”

Spelman created a fundraising campaign to match Stryker’s $2 million donation.

(Photo: Jack Mitchell/Getty Images)

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