Spelman College is excited to announce a $10,000 gift from the Alison R. Bernstein Estate to the Women’s Research and Resource Center. The generous contribution will be used to reformat audio-visual materials from the Audre Lordeand Toni Cade Bambara papers in the Spelman College Archives, which is a component of the Women’s Center. The papers of these two iconic Black feminist writers are the most heavily used collections in the Archives.

The late Dr. Alison R. Bernstein was a member of the Women’s Center’s National Advisory Board prior to being appointed in 2010 as the William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Chair in the Humanities.  Dr. Bernstein held various significant leadership positions at the Ford Foundation during which time she supported various Women’s Center projects, including its endowment project.  In 1983, she began working as a program officer and was later promoted to director of the Education and Culture program, and later vice president for Education, Creativity and Free Expression.  At the time of her death in June 2016, she was director of the Institute for Women’s Leadership at Rutgers University.

A historian and expert on Native Americans, she was committed to improving higher education and defending the rights of women. Her books included “Melting Pots and Rainbow Nations: Conversations About Difference in the United States and South Africa,” which she co-authored with Jacklyn Cock.

“During a visit to Spelman in fall of 2015, I had the opportunity to thank Alison Bernstein for her decades-long support of our work, including our endowment grant from Ford,” said Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Ph.D., C’66, founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center and the Anna Julia Cooper professor of Women’s Studies. “We will miss her deeply.”

“Alison’s financial and intellectual support of the Women’s Studies program at Spelman was simply world changing,” said Evelynn Hammonds, Ph.D., C’76. Dr. Bernstein mentored the Harvard professor and former Spelman Board Trustee after she was awarded a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship.

“She made it clear that our talents were valued and needed,” said Dr. Hammonds. “Alison did her work with so much enthusiasm, passion, intellectual force, courage and clarity. She made me believe that being a change agent in the academy was critical, necessary and important work.”   

WRRC is the first women’s research center at a historically Black college and the first one to offer a Women’s Studies major. With sustained support from the Ford Foundation since 1983, the Center has facilitated faculty and student leadership development; collaborated with other departments/programs on and off campus to establish new courses (most recently Black queer studies) that address issues of gender and race; and established international linkages with universities outside the U.S. to increase their capacity to promote faculty and student development.

Archives staff plan to partner with a preservation quality digitization vendor to convert the audio and VHS videotapes and preserve quality digital files. Upon completion, researchers will be able to utilize archival materials and support the Women’s Center’s mission to preserve and provide broad access to collections documenting the experiences of women of the African Diaspora.


About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a highly selective, liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund Founder Marian Wright Edelman; Starbucks COO Rosalind Brewer, Broadway producer Alia Jones, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna President Audrey Forbes Manley, Harvard professor Evelynn Hammonds, author Pearl Cleage; and actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson. For more information, visit www.spelman.edu.