AAUW Coretta Scott King Fellows: Scholars and Women of Action
This blog was originally written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants intern Elyssa Shildneck and posted on February 29, 2012.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we celebrate the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King by remembering the achievements of a few AAUW Coretta Scott King Fund awardees.
The AAUW Coretta Scott King Fund was created by AAUW members who wanted to honor King’s legacy. They raised $150,000 and used it to support 46 women, primarily African American undergraduate and graduate students pursuing Afro-American studies, peace studies, and nonviolent change programs.
Coretta Scott King saw the establishment of the AAUW Coretta Scott King Fund as a “way in which to continue [her] husband’s work.” She noted, “As I look at the list of awardees and the statements that have been written about them, and some of their own words, I have been deeply impressed with their sense of dedication — dedication to those causes that were meaningful to my husband and [that] are meaningful to me.”
When the fund was created in the 1960s, the civil rights movement was at its peak as African Americans fought to achieve positive societal change. The AAUW Coretta Scott King Fund was developed to be a part of this change by promoting hope and equality for African American women. As Coretta Scott King aptly said at an AAUW convention in 1969, “A society which denies any segment of its population the opportunity to participate fully and productively in it is remiss [sic] in its duty to the total population.” These words still ring true today as we look to the future of women’s empowerment under changing political administrations.
“A society which denies any segment of its population the opportunity to participate fully and productively in it is remiss [sic] in its duty to the total population.”
— Coretta Scott King
The women who received fellowships from the AAUW Coretta Scott King Fund went on to pursue King Jr.’s vision by becoming leaders in their fields, among them academia, business, the arts, and public service. Learn more about some of the women who received a Coretta Scott King Fund Award.
Lisbeth Gant-Britton serves as the student affairs officer for the interdepartmental program in Afro-American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she also serves as an adjunct professor. She is the author of the textbook Holt African American History. Her previous work, African American History: Heroes in Hardship, was awarded the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office Special Commendation in 1922 for its educational approach to understanding race relations. Among her accomplishments are serving as the Marlene Crandell Francis Professor of the Humanities in the English department at Kalamazoo College in Michigan; working as an editor at Essence magazine; and teaching courses at Chaffey College, UCLA, Kalamazoo College, the University of Southern California, and Pitzer College. Gant-Britton received her AAUW award in 1969, which allowed her to study in Africa for a summer.
Portia K. Maultsby
Portia K. Maultsby currently serves as Laura Boulton Professor Emerita of Ethnomusicology, professor emerita of folklore and ethnomusicology, and faculty research associate with the Archives of African American Music and Culture at Indiana University. She received her AAUW award in 1970 while completing her doctorate in the field of ethnomusicology at the University of Wisconsin. In 2009, she developed and wrote A History of African American Music, an interactive time line for Carnegie Hall’s two-week festival Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy. She also served as the general consultant, adviser, and editorial assistant for the festival. Her love of music extends past the academic study of it: Maultsby is also a keyboard player and the founding director of the Indiana University Soul Revue. In 2011 Maultsby was honored with the National Association for the Study and Performance of African American Music National Award.
Nell Irvin Painter
Nell Irvin Painter is a leading U.S. historian and the Edwards Professor Emerita of American History at Princeton University. She received her AAUW award in 1970 while completing her doctorate in American studies at Harvard University. She has since received honorary doctorates from Wesleyan University, Dartmouth University, Yale University, and the State University of New York, New Paltz, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the American Antiquarian Society. Painter has also served as president of the Organization of American Historians and the Southern Historical Association. She is an accomplished author as well: Her 2005 book Creating Black Americans: African American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to Present, won the Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center in 2006, and her most recent book, The History of White People, traces the invention of the idea of a white race. As an artist Painter uses found images and digital manipulation to reconfigure the past through art.
In her 1969 AAUW National Convention address, King advised members to remember “the enormous influence that an organization like the American Association of University Women, through its educated women … can exert.” We hold on to these words as we continue our fight for women’s empowerment in the coming year and beyond.
See a list of the women who have made a difference with the help of AAUW’s Coretta Scott King Fund award.
Read about what AAUW’s activism looked like in the 1960s.
Learn more about how alumna and academic Patricia Bell-Scott is pushing black women’s voices to the forefront of the conversation.