John T. Washington Lecture Series - "'It Could, in Fact, Conquer the Color Line': Black Women, Beauty Advertisements, and Dreams of Equality."

Thursday, February 17, 2022 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

UCF Department of History's Africana Studies Program in partnership with UCF Alumni is pleased to host the Fourth Annual Dr. John T. Washington Lecture Series benefiting scholarships for Africana Studies Minors.  

This lecture series upholds the legacy and continues the mission of Dr. John T. Washington. The lecture will take place on Thursday, February 17, 2022 virtually on Zoom starting at 6 p.m. 

This year's featured speaker, Dr. Leah Gaines will present "'It Could, in Fact, Conquer the Color Line': Black Women, Beauty Advertisements, and Dreams of Equality."

Considering early 1900s American beauty advertisements, this presentation serves to explore some of the ways that beauty has been advertised to Black women under the guise of equality, social mobility, and respectability. Ultimately, the findings share that a specific beauty was a way to first class citizenship, a new ethnic identity, and cleanliness. This understanding of what beauty was for Black women was heavily influenced by white supremacy, the social construction of race, and racism. Considering historical practices of determining beauty and access to opportunity, this research calls for the challenging of current and future societal definitions of beauty, the politics of respectability, and the way that race is either privileged or deemed unworthy in society.

Dr. Gaines joined the University of Central Florida in Fall 2021 as a lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies. She holds a PhD in African American and African Studies, with a concentration in Urban Education, from Michigan State University. She received a Master’s from Morgan State University, where she studied History and African American Studies. She completed her undergraduate studies at Towson University, where she majored in Psychology, and minored in African American Studies. Her research interests are in structural inequities, urban education, student experiences, African American Language, Black women and beauty, race, and identity. Her latest publication, In the Midst of the Water Crisis: Language and Resistance in Flint, is an ethnographic work that examines how an educational community in Flint, Michigan has used language to resist the ongoing water crisis. 

UCF Alumna Derreasha Jones '21, will give opening remarks and discuss the importance of Dr. John T. Washington's legacy. While on campus Jones was actively involved as a LEAD Scholar, Knight of Distinction, Counsel Representative of the Black Student Union, President of the UCF Chapter of the NAACP, and member of the Inaugural President’s Student Advisory Council (PSAC) with a platform of the Safety, Equity and Inclusion of Black students and the Black Community. In her senior year, she was able to witness a few areas of her advocacy reach full fruition with the creation of multicultural space within the Student Union and the installation of the Dr. John T. Washington Mural to both honor Dr. Washington and add representation on campus of the countless contributions the Black community has made at UCF. Derreasha currently serves as the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist for the Children’s Home Society of Florida and hopes to continue to uplift her community through her work, service, and her writing.

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