For Dr. DeAnna Reese, Black History Month has always meant recognizing and championing the resilience and humanity of Black people, but she celebrates the history and legacy year round. She’s been an Africana Studies and History professor at Fresno State for the past 12 years.
Through her research and writing, Reese recognizes and champions African American women. Most recently, she researched the role of African American women in politics and their understanding of it, before they had the right to vote.
“We found that as slaves and free women, black women circulated petitions, wrote letters, and participated in antislavery and self-help organizations. After the Civil War, many willfully influenced a husband or father’s vote even if unable to cast their own ballot,” said Reese. “These activities are the foundation upon which later generations of black women continue their political activism.”
In (2014), she authored an essay titled “Stories worth Telling: How Kerry Washington Balances Brains, Beauty, and Power in Hollywood” in which she discussed how Washington’s character gave a new light to intelligent female roles in the entertainment industry.
“This role was a radical departure from the types of television roles in which black women are rarely acknowledged for their intellect or leadership skills. Washington’s role as Pope speaks to an important change underway for women of color on television and film; a change that would not be possible if not for the small but growing number of female writers and producers,” Reese said.
Reese enjoys sharing her findings with her students and offers in-depth courses that give a better understanding of African and African American centered perspectives through history, culture, and politics. She believes the courses empower students with knowledge that helps them learn about their place in the world and in turn learn about themselves.
Reese acknowledges students and community members have come to realize the importance of examining race’s intersection with issues of gender, class, and sexuality. She says the interest in cultural diversity has been intensified, in part, due to social media and an increase of students with mixed ancestry.
But despite the rising interest, Reese notes there’s much to be addressed, culturally. “There’s still an inability/unwillingness among many to critically address the varied layers of anti-blackness that pervade all sectors of our community. Such attitudes limit the conversations that need to be had on racial bigotry toward people of African descent, and an understanding of the ways in which Africana culture has shaped and improved the world both past and present,” she said.
After taking her courses, Reese hopes students walk away with critical thinking skills, inspiration to continue their studies, and information that will help them make positive and empowered choices.
Reese earned a bachelor’s in Ethnic Studies and Anthropology from the University of California, Riverside and a Masters and Doctorate of History from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
A few of her most recent published work include: “When They Go Low, We Go High”: African American Women Torchbearers for Democracy and the 2016 Democratic National Convention” published in Nasty Women and Bad Hombres: Gender and Race in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election (Gender and Race in American History) (October 2018) and “Sapphires Gone Wild: The Politics of Black Women’s Respectability in the Age of the Ratchet” published in the volume Challenging Misrepresentations of Black Womanhood: Media, Literature and Theory (Spring 2019).