Parker History Lecture
Dr. Erica Armstrong Dunbar, a renowned historian, author, and lecturer, spoke at the 29th annual Davis R. Parker Memorial History Lecture on April 10. Her presentation, “Running from the Washingtons: Ona Judge and the Founding of a Nation,” focused on slavery, racial injustice, and the experiences of female slaves.
Dr. Armstrong Dunbar’s presentation not only focused on the Washington’s decades-long pursuit of Judge, but also on the importance of making enslaved peoples’ experiences part of history lessons. Ona Judge was enslaved by the Washington family at birth, but fled in 1796 on a ship from Philadelphia to Portsmouth, N.H., where she spent decades as a fugitive.
Ona’s story gives others a unique lens through which to see the founding of a nation.
“I was able to use Ona as a portal to the early history of the United States,” said Dr. Armstrong Dunbar. “Ona’s story gives others a unique lens through which to see the founding of a nation.”
Dr. Armstrong Dunbar also spent time in class with history students, and gave a presentation to Haverford’s Upper School student body on the experiences of African-Americans from the end of slavery to present day.
“Each year we bring a prominent historian to campus who will provide the community with a thought-provoking presentation,” said Hannah Turlish, The Russell C. Ball Jr. ’44 Chair of History at The Haverford School. “Dr. Armstrong Dunbar took one of the most talked-about topics of our current times – the treatment of black Americans in our political and legal systems – and grounded it with a narrative full of meticulously researched historical facts. She was masterful in her handling of lesser-acknowledged events and individuals, as well as in her conversations with community members."
Dr. Erica Armstrong Dunbar is the Charles & Mary Beard Professor of History at Rutgers University, the inaugural Director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the author of Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge.
She has appeared in several documentaries and written for The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Armstrong Dunbar earned the 2018 Frederick Douglass Book Prize from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. She earned a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University.
“My writing, teaching, and lecturing focus on the uncomfortable concepts of slavery, racial injustice, and gender inequality. While there is deep pain associated with these topics, I marvel at the incredible triumph of survival and the beautiful history of resistance.”
After Headmaster Davis R. Parker’s death in 1989, his predecessor, Leslie R. Severinghaus, proposed the establishment of an annual lecture dedicated to Mr. Parker’s memory and recognizing his passion for American history.
The initial funding for this endowed lecture series was provided by Dr. Severinghaus and by a bequest directed from Mr. Parker’s estate established by his wife, Jane. The Parker Memorial Fund supports the lecture program and has been sustained by gifts from alumni, faculty, and friends of Mr. Parker.
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