Wayne State professor elected president of classical scholars national organization

November 4, 2009

Planning a meeting for 500 of your colleagues from the U.S. and Canada sounds like a prestigious assignment. Pick the hotel! Plan the menu! Select the conference souvenirs! Choose the speakers! It's a bossy buffet of decisions. How glamorous.

How exhausting.

But it all comes with being president of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS). Only three Michiganians have received this honor since the association's founding in 1905, and Professor Michele Ronnick of the Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures makes four.

The 1,500 CAMWS members primarily are college and university professors, K-12 teachers and graduate students who specialize in Greek, Latin and the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome. Ronnick, who has been at WSU since 1993, will give the event's keynote address and focus on black classicism, her primary area of scholarship. The event will be in Oklahoma City in April 2010.

Ronnick's work on black classicists has attracted praise from Princeton's Cornel West, historian Nell Painter and Harvard's Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who wrote the forewords to her Wayne State University Press book The Autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough: An American Journey from Slavery to Scholarship and her Oxford University Press book The Works of William Sanders Scarborough: Black Classicist and Race Leader. Ronnick received the American Philological Association's 2006 Outreach Award for the book and photo installation, 12 Black Classicists, which toured the nation. She is credited with discovering Scarborough as the first black classicist, and received the Best Article for the Year award from the Women's Classical Caucus for a piece she wrote that identified Scarborough as the first black man to join the Modern Language Association.

"Classical antiquity's influence continues to affect us all regardless of our race, creed or gender," she says. "Among African-Americans there is a rich tradition of interpretation and learning. We can see it in the work of writers and artists such as Phillis Wheatley, Romare Bearden, Emma Amos, Percival Everett and Toni Morrison and in the careers of scholars and educators such as R.R. Wright, W.E.B. DuBois, Lewis Baxter Moore, Helen Maria Chesnutt and Frank Snowden, among many others."