Michele Valerie Ronnick
September 23, 2005
Michele Valerie Ronnick presented the inaugural Thelma Tournay Slater Classics Lecture at Mount Union College on Thursday, September 22.
Ronnick, associate professor of classics, Greek and Latin at Wayne State University, began her presentation '13 Black Classicists' by elaborating on the meaning of black classicism. Ronnick stressed that, for newly-freed African-Americans, Emancipation brought about their first opportunity to legally receive a formal classical education. Classicism helped bring these avid scholars from marginalization into the mainstream of society, enabling them to relate to the status quo.
Ronnick pointed out how 19th century African-American rhetoric became 'peppered with classical references.' They drew upon the influences of the classics and applied them to their own lives, she said. According to Ronnick, the 13 men and women unearthed by her through years of deep archival research were transformed by the power of great literature to influence and inform. They are proof that a classical education provides a solid foundation upon which to build, said Ronnick.
Ronnick then showed slides of the '13 Black Classicists' as well as artistic works by African-Americans influenced by the classics. She concluded her formal presentation by urging the audience to 'pour out a libation to them in recognition of their achievement against nearly insurmountable odds.'
A photographic exhibit of the '13 Black Classicists' researched by Ronnick was on display in the Crandall Art Gallery during the reception held following the lecture. The exhibit includes classicists Edward Wilmot Blyden, Richard Theodore Greener, William Sanders Scarborough, James Monroe Gregory, Frazelia Campbell, Wiley Lane, William Henry Crogman, John Wesley Gilbert, Daniel Barclay Williams, Lewis Baxter Moore, Reuben Shannon Lovinggood and George Morton Lightfoot. A copy of this photographic exhibit has found a permanent home at Mount Union, thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Slater.
The Thelma Tournay Slater Classics Lecture is made possible through a gift of Thelma E. Tournay Slater, a 1942 Mount Union College graduate. Her lifelong passion for the classics began while a student at Mount Union. Her gift supports student enrichment through an increased appreciation of the civilization and cultural achievements of ancient Greek and Rome that stand at the core of a liberal arts education.