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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Trotter Center to Focus On History

On the heels of a successful event as the first female director of the William Monroe Trotter Institute on the tenth floor of the Healey Library, Dr. Barbara Lewis is ready to continue the institute’s work on campus.

She defines the Trotter Center as “the institute on campus that is focused on doing research and outreach relative to the African American community.” “Its focus is culture, the black culture,” she said.”And, I’m very interested in expanding that focus into, certainly culture, but history as well.”

Lewis feels that history should remain an integral part of the Trotter Institute’s focus in recognition of the center’s namesake, William Monroe Trotter. Trotter was a historic African American figure, and according to Lewis, the first African American phi beta kappa graduate from Harvard University. She adds that Trotter was a founding member of the Guardian, the newspaper from which the Bay State Banner, the contemporary black community-focused newspaper in Boston, evolved.

“I don’t know if people on campus know much about him,” she said of Trotter. “He started a legacy and that legacy is ongoing and to honor him and his memory I think we should definitely be very interested in and focused on history.”

Dr. Lewis cited the example of actor Lisa Gay Hamilton, cast member in African-American playwright August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean at the Huntington Theatre, who the Trotter Institute hosted at UMass Boston last week as an example of the importance of history.

“Everyone says that, you know you’re history when you celebrate your history,” she said. “That was one of the things that Lisa Gay Hamilton did talk about so movingly I thought. When she said that ‘When you know who you are then you can negotiate the difficulties that you face.’ So, I think that’s why it’s important to focus on history as well.” Lewis, whose doctorate is in Theatre History, was delighted to have Hamilton as her first guest speaker with the Trotter Center. “I knew her play was in town and I thought it would be a good experience fro the students to be exposed to an actress,” she said. “I adore theatre, it seems to work out that the first event that I do on campus as the director of the Trotter Institute is drawn from the theatre. I love August Wilson, I’ve seen all of his plays at least once.”

Dr. Lewis is such a fan of the playwright that as chair of the Theatre Department at the University of Kentucky she went to great lengths to attend a show. “On a Sunday morning I flew from Kentucky to Chicago, caught the matinee, and then flew back,” she said. “That gives you some idea of how committed I am to the theatre.”

Lewis hopes that her first event will lead to furthering the exposure of the Trotter Center on campus. “One of the things that I found gratifying at the Lisa Gay Hamilton event was after it was over a student came up to me and introduced herself and said she was delighted to meet me and where was the Trotter Institute and I said, ‘well, it’s in Healey on the tenth floor,'” Lewis said. “‘She said, ‘you mean it’s on campus,’ and I said ‘yes.’ For me that’s one of the things that I really want to do, I want to make everyone on campus aware of that the Trotter exists and work with people and do things and do exciting things at least I hope. And not only exciting, but rewarding and beneficial.”

Of her role as the first female at the helm of the Trotter Institute, Dr. Lewis says, “I think that some things are coming together for women, I hope that some things are coming together for African Americans, and I’m just delighted that I happen to be both.”

Next month the Trotter Center is set to host politically controversial Boston University Professor of Economy and racial inequality analyst Glenn C. Loury.