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Vol. LXVI, No. 7
March 28, 2014
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Bahama Beat
History Professorís Inspiring Talk Celebrates Black History Month

Dr. Crystal deGregory

Dr. Crystal deGregory

“Everyone has a story,” says Dr. Crystal deGregory. “Make yours matter.”

deGregory’s story begins in Freeport, Bahamas, where she was born and reared. She arrived in the U.S. 15 years ago after a chance encounter with a college recruiter led her to Fisk University, a historically black college in Nashville. A partial scholarship and her mother’s blessing made it possible for her to attend college. The experience inspired her to become an ardent advocate for black college education and expanded opportunities for minorities.

Moved by the stories of black college alumni, many of whom were instrumental in the civil rights movement, deGregory founded and runs HBCUstory, Inc., an advocacy initiative dedicated to past and present narratives from historically black colleges and universities.

“These schools exist because someone else sacrificed so they could exist…so they could strive and survive for future generations,” said the sprightly deGregory during the African-American History Month Lunch and Learn event on Feb. 27 in Bldg. 1’s Wilson Hall.

On HBCUstory.com, alumni are encouraged to share their stories and honor those who helped them attain their goals. deGregory paid homage to one such hero, professor emeritus Leslie Morgan Collins, who taught English and the Harlem Renaissance at Fisk for 63 years and left an indelible impression on her and countless other students. Collins passed away days before the lecture at age 99.

“I believe in the transformative power of history and of education,” said deGregory. “I’ve been a witness to, as well as the beneficiary of, how the two can come together to change lives.”

“I believe in the transformative power of history and of education,” said deGregory. “I’ve been a witness to, as well as the beneficiary of, how the two can come together to change lives.”

Photos: Ernie Branson

Displaying her passion for history, deGregory described how the civil rights struggle in America was intertwined with the struggle for civil rights and nationhood in her native Bahamas. The story, she said, began with two men, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling, born two nations and one year apart. Pindling, considered the founding father of the Bahamas, was elected premier in 1967 and led his nation to independence from Britain in 1973. He then served as prime minister from that year until 1992.

The difficult economic and social conditions of blacks in the American south were shared across the African diaspora, including in the fledgling Bahamas. In response to this injustice, by the mid-20th century, a political and social movement was stirring in the Bahamas, much as it had been in America. Pindling, influenced by King’s nonviolent activism, adopted these same peaceful principles as he guided his nation to freedom.

Last year, the Bahamian government passed legislation establishing a new holiday, National Heroes Day, to be celebrated on Oct. 12, which deGregory called a fitting tribute to the black political leaders whose efforts created an independent Bahamas.

deGregory, who received her master’s and doctoral degrees from Vanderbilt, now teaches history at Tennessee State University.

“I believe in the transformative power of history and of education,” she posted on her web site. “I’ve been a witness to, as well as the beneficiary of, how the two can come together to change lives.”


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