Anna Arnold Hedgeman biographer Jennifer Scanlon traveled to Hamline from Maine to speak about the influential life of the Hedgeman Center namesake during their annual Dr. King Memorial Lecture Series.

An exhibit put on by Hedgeman Center students showcased Anna Arnold Hedgeman’s many contributions to the civil rights movement. (Jacob ‘Coby’Aloi)

Last week, the Hedgeman Center held its annual Social Justice Week. To kick off the symposium, the Hedgeman Center has invited historian Jennifer Scanlon to deliver the keynote address on Tuesday, April 5. Hedgeman, Hamline University’s first colored graduate and the Center’s namesake. Scanlon had previously written a book about Hedgman, “Until Justice Comes: The Life of Anna Arnold Hedgeman.”

Professor Samuel Imbo, head of the department and professor of philosophy, and Professor Kristin Mapel Bloomberg of the Department of Women’s Studies, helped welcome Scanlon to the podium. Imbo spoke of the generations of keynote speakers who have come to Hamline for this lecture series and recognized the continued importance of these conversations.

“Wrestling is moving into a different time, and so those of us who engage in these things have to think about how we carry on the conversations,” Imbo said.

Hedgeman Center student employee Brandy Sanchez Dominguez was one of the operators for the evening’s keynote. Sanchez Dominguez has been involved with the Hedgeman Center since her first semester on campus and enjoys the educational opportunities the Center provides.

“The goal [of the lectures] is to really inform students and engage them in the learning of people like Anna Arnold Hedgeman and to be committed to wanting to learn and address the racial issues and injustices that are happening,” Sanchez Dominguez said.

Scanlon began her speech by thanking those in attendance and those she had spent time with on campus prior to the event.

“I want to thank you all for being here tonight…that’s what it’s all about. All of our work for social justice is thinking that the next generation of people will make things better,” said Scanlon said.

Scanlon made it clear that while she didn’t claim to speak for Hedgeman, she wanted to acknowledge and share his life and work.

“As a historian, I’ve long been interested in what we remember about our past…which people are included and which people are excluded,” Scanlon said. She then explained why she would speak about Hedgeman, explaining that her hopes for the conference were to see history through a lens of social justice and to use the life of Anna Arnold Hedgeman as a means to do so.

The talk touched on Hedgeman’s life and the many eras that have defined his work. Scanlon spoke about Hedgeman’s years at Hamline and how formative they were, but also how difficult they must have been as the only person of color on campus.

“[Hedgeman] found teachers who believed in it, as well as those who didn’t,” Scanlon said.

Scanlon delivered his speech on the life and service of Anna Arnold Hedgeman. (Jacob ‘Coby’Aloi)

She then spoke about the social and political causes Hedgeman was involved in and fought for, such as his involvement in the diversification of public service in New York and his contributions to the civil rights movement. Hedgeman was a member of the National Council of Churches, an organization often confused with communism because of its desegregation initiatives supported by Hedgeman. Scanlon also pointed out the many ways in which being a black, educated woman makes it difficult to engage in these environments.

“I can offer you countless examples of Anna Arnold Hedgeman confronting white colleagues, black politicians, the FBI, her religious allies, her feminist allies, the state. As one of his contemporary religious leaders put it, “Hedgman always made sure his voice was at the table,” Scanlon said.

Scanlon concluded her concise but non-exhaustive presentation of Hedgeman’s life and left the audience with the lessons she learned in her research, encouraging those present to incorporate them into their own lives.

“We have to know as infuriating as things are, we’re in this for the long haul, and I think Hedgeman really knew that. She did her job decade after decade after decade and only really stopped when she was physically unable to continue doing her job,” Scanlon said.

Scanlon’s presentation on an important figure and activist in Hamline and US history was a fitting way to start Hedgeman Center’s Social Justice Week. Other events last week included panels on Critical Race Theory and Asian-American Identity. For future events and speakers, the Hedgeman Center schedule is available on the Hamline website.


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