Dr. Thavolia Glymph is a Black woman who is not only making history, but she’s making sure the rest of us know our history.
On January 6th of this year, Glymph was named the 140th president of the American Historical Association (AHA), the first Black woman to hold such an honor. As such, she is tasked with helping the Association respond to the multiple challenges historians face as a profession and nation, particularly in the face of a global pandemic and threats to academic freedom and job insecurity, according to the AHA magazine.
Glymph’s appointment comes at a time when much of this nation is divided over how we talk about and learn about our country’s complex history. Between book bannings and debates of critical race theory and stronger restrictions on what is allowed to be taught in schools, history can be a complicated subject to both share and understand. The AHA is making it a priority to expand the definition of historical scholarship and support the teaching of honest history in K-12 classrooms. Glymph will help lead this charge.
Growing up in the South, history was “unavoidable,” according to Glymph. She was interested in the subject from childhood and, through encouragement from her parents and grandparents and frequent trips to her local library, Glymph became what she calls a “student of history,” studying the kings and queens of Europe as well as the rich legacy of African Americans in the Southern United States which would become her focus.
Glymph attended Hampton University, an HBCU in Virginia, where she had her first encounters with historical research, archival collections, and the true depth of historiography that would later inspire her career. She would go on to earn a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Glymph is a Peabody Family Distinguished Professor of History, a professor of law, and a faculty research scholar in the Population Research Institute at Duke University. Before becoming president, she served as a member of the AHA Nominating Committee from 2013—16 and the AHA Program Committee in 2012. She is the past president of the Southern Historical Association. In addition to these accolades, Dr. Glymph is also an author of Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household, and The Women’s Fight: The Civil Wars Battles for Home, Freedom, and Nation.
Above all, Glymph is a lover of history and is dedicated to preserving and sharing the stories of our past with as many as many people who are willing to learn. In her own words, she will “support the many important existing initiatives and encourage future efforts that aim to ensure that the work of historians is seen and heard not only by other scholars but by the larger communities we serve and those we still need to serve who are waiting for us to see them.”
Cover photo: Meet the First Black Woman President of the American Historical Association/Photo by Dr. Thavolia Glymph/HBCU Buzz