35th Annual MLK Celebration Keynote
Johnnetta B. Cole
First African-American woman to serve as president of Spelman College
Educator and humanitarian Johnnetta B. Cole is the first African-American woman to serve as president of Spelman College.
Cole's academic and community service work has consistently addressed issues of racial, gender and other forms of discrimination. She is the only individual to have served as president of the two historically black colleges for women in the United States: Bennett College for Women (2002-2007) and Spelman College (1987-1997). Cole is also professor emerita of Emory University, from which she retired as the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Women's Studies and African American Studies. From 2004 to 2006, she was the first person of color to serve as the chair of the board of the United Way of America.
This is not the first time Cole delivers a keynote speech at MIT. In 1994, she was the featured keynote, along with civil rights attorney Lani Guinier (the 2001 MLK celebration keynote) and political activist Angela Davis, for "Black Women in the Academy: Defending Our Name 1894-1994". The national conference focused on issues concerning black women in academia and was the first of its kind.
Cole is now the chair of the board of the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute, founded at Bennett College.