Book Talk circle

Preserving a Trailblazer’s Intellectual Legacy

by Sherri Kimmel
To call Sadie T.M. Alexander a trailblazer is an understatement. Her list of “firsts” includes: first Black American to earn a Ph.D. in economics, first Black woman to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and pass the state bar exam, and first economist in the United States to advocate for full employment through federal job-guarantee programs.

Now a new book by Professor Nina Banks, economics, is bringing this champion and exemplar of Black American accomplishments into the public eye. Released on June 15, exactly 100 years after Alexander became a newly minted Ph.D., Democracy, Race, & Justice: The Speeches and Writings of Sadie T.M. Alexander, has led to a rediscovery of a woman whose observations about democracy, civil rights and economic opportunities were visionary and remain relevant to today’s political, social and economic challenges. Banks’ book is the first in-depth exploration of the intellectual thought of an African American woman economist.

Nina Banks headshot
Photo: Emily Paine
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Professor Nina Banks says Sadie Alexander’s aim was to uplift African American achievements and uphold democracy through her public speaking.
“I’m really thrilled to have been able to recover Sadie Alexander’s intellectual thought because she was so critical to the history of African Americans, which means that she was critical to the history of the United States,” says Banks.

An affiliated faculty member in Women’s & Gender Studies and Critical Black Studies, Banks has spent nearly two decades delving into this singular woman’s life. For the first several years, she made fitful progress. Then in 2014, a Bucknell Institute for Public Policy grant supported her march through the 81 boxes of Alexander materials in the University of Pennsylvania archives. A Dean of Arts & Sciences faculty fellowship followed, along with stellar student support from Presidential Fellow Lily Shorney ’22, Darby Hamilton ’15 and several others, which enabled Banks to complete the manuscript.

Banks anticipates learning even more about the economist and civil rights activist as she works on a biography, with input from Alexander’s two daughters.

“She was just so brilliant and fierce, and yet she is appealing across a broad political and ideological spectrum,” says Banks. “There were so many times when something would happen [in current events], and I’d think, ‘Oh wow, Sadie Alexander wrote about that. I’ll go back and read it now.’ ”

Democracy, Race, & Justice: The Speeches and Writings of Sadie T.M. Alexander. Nina Banks (Yale University Press, 2021)
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Watch a video about Alexander’s life
Faculty Books
Chet’la Sebree (English)
Field Study (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021)
Sebree, director of the Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts, won the 2020 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets for this lyric poem. Its subjects include love, heartbreak, womanhood, art, sex, Blackness and America. “And the Record Repeats,” a poem by Sebree, was also included in Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha Blain.
Alumni Books
Jane Austen: A Companion (McFarland, 2021)
When the Parallel Converge (Resource Publications, 2021)
Jane Austen: A Companion serves as a guide and reference for all persons, places, things and times related to Austen, including her own works and works related to her. When the Parallel Converge is a spiritual memoir that depicts three memorable times in the author’s life. Included are three poems.

White Chick (Elixir Press, 2021)
White Chick was the winner of the 2020 Elixir Press Antivenom Poetry Award for first or second poetry collections. Keating explores race, class, presidential administrations, self-doubt, shame and other topics.

Biking with Bismarck: A Little Tour of France (Odysseus Books, 2021)
After the death of his mother in 2011, travel writer Matthew Stevenson softened his sorrows by exploring the contours of French history between 1870 and 1919 “with books, a bike, and trains close by.”

Playing My Heart Out: One Ringer’s Passion for Handbells (Self-published, 2020)
Marotta describes how participation in Bucknell’s handbell choir, the Rooke Chapel Ringers, has helped to shape her life’s trajectory. Former director William Payn wrote the introduction.