Q&A with the author of TO ADVANCE THE RACE

Linda M. Perkins, the author of To Advance the Race: Black Women’s Higher Education from the Antebellum Era to the 1960s, answers questions on her new book.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book? Out of necessity. There wasn’t any source that covered the history of Black women’s higher education. And, it’s such a massive study. Black women had a myriad of experiences throughout the century pursuing a higher education.   

Q: What is the most interesting discovery you made while researching and writing your book?

The extent to which white male professors mentored and encouraged Black women students in certain institutions. They were responsible for some of the earliest Black women to get doctorates in STEM fields and Economics. 

Q: What myths do you hope your book will dispel or what do you hope your book will help readers unlearn?

That Black women students, faculty and staff had monolithic experiences. They varied greatly depending on the time period, geographical location and institution.  

Q: Which part of the publishing process did you find the most interesting?

Having the opportunity to interview and meet many women  discussed in this book. I had the privilege of reading their fellowship applications from the Rosenwald and the General Education Board for graduate school in the 1940s. It was very inspiring to read their grant proposals, their references and read their follow-up reports to see the impact of these awards on their careers. I loved the archival research as well.  

Q: What is your advice to scholars/authors who want to take on a similar project?   

This was a labor of love and took several decades to complete since I covered a century. I interviewed most of the women in the 70s and 80s and explored a myriad of archives. This is not a short-term project. You need to be willing to devote a lot of time and be passionate about your topic.  

Q: What do you like to read/watch/or listen to for fun?

Biographies and Memoirs. I enjoy studying people’s lives.   

Linda M. Perkins is a professor and the director of Applied Gender Studies Department at Claremont Graduate University. She is the author of Fanny Jackson Coppin and the Institute for Colored Youth, 1865–1902. For more information, please go to: lindamperkins.com

About Kristina Stonehill