Some say that the study of classics is only about “old white men.” But two Black Christian professors—Angel Parham and Anika Prather—have been using classical education with Black students in schools and co-ops, while incorporating Black art and analysis as they go. In their book The Black Intellectual Tradition they show that we can’t understand Equiano, Wheatley, Douglass or Morrison without the classics. At the same time, classical education in America is enriched by engagement with the great Black American writers.
This wonderful author event will be bookended with the musical stylings of Ruth Naomi Floyd, whose Jazz Works puts the words of America’s greatest orator, Frederick Douglass, to music.
Co-hosted by the Free Enterprise Center, the College of Education and the Honors Program.
Dr. Angel Adams Parham is associate professor of sociology and senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. She works in the area of historical sociology, engaging in research and writing that examine the past in order to better understand how to live well in the present and envision wisely for the future. This research focus is rooted in her interest in re-connecting sociology to its classical roots so that sociology is understood to be a kind of public philosophy animated by questions such as: What is a good society? and What kinds of social arrangements are most conducive to human flourishing? She is the author of American Routes: Racial Palimpsests and the Transformation of Race (Oxford, 2017), which was co-winner of the Social Science History Association’s Allan Sharlin Memorial book award (2018) and co-winner of the American Sociological Association’s Barrington Moore book award in comparative-historical sociology (2018). She has been a member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, as well as the recipient of a Fulbright grant. She is also the co-founder and executive director of Nyansa Classical Community, which provides curricula and programming designed to connect with students from diverse backgrounds, inviting them to take part in the Great Conversation, cultivate the moral imagination, and pursue truth, goodness, and beauty.
Dr. Anika T. Prather earned her B.A. from Howard University in elementary education. She also has earned several graduate degrees in education from New York University and Howard University. She has a Masters in liberal arts from St. John’s College (Annapolis) and a PhD in English, Theatre and Literacy Education from the University of Maryland (College Park). Her research focus is on building literacy with African American students through engagement in the books of the Canon and self-published her book Living in the Constellation of the Canon: The Lived Experiences of African American Students Reading Great Books Literature recently. She is also the co-author for The Black Intellectual Tradition (with Dr. Angel Parham). She has served as a teacher, supervisor for student teachers, director of education and Head of School. She is a sought after speaker on the topic of the relevancy of classical studies to the Black community. She teaches in the English department at Howard University, serves as director high quality curriculum and instruction at Johns Hopkins University, and is the founder of The Living Water School, located in Southern Maryland. The Living Water School is a unique Christian school for independent learners, based on the educational philosophies of Classical Education and the Sudbury Model. In the spring of 2022, Anika and Damon opened The Living Water Center where activities for the Living Water School, book talks, and other events are hosted. The Living Water Center (located in Old Town Alexandria) also houses The Blacks in Classics Museum which is open to the public on select Saturdays and Sundays for visitors to see original artwork featuring Blacks who have been inspired by classics and the works of the Canon. She is married to Damon M. Prather an engineer. She and her husband Damon, have three children, and reside in the DC metropolitan area.
For over 25 years, vocalist, composer, and flutist Ruth Naomi Floyd has been at the forefront of creating a discography of vocal jazz settings that express theology, history, and justice.
A committed music educator, Floyd is the first African American woman to serve as the founding director of a University Jazz Studies Program in the United States. She served as director of jazz studies at Cairn University and is an adjunct professor at Temple University. In addition, Floyd was the music director at the City School. (K-12 grades) For the 2022-2023 academic year, the Community College of Philadelphia appointed Floyd as their inaugural Artist-in-Residence. Concordia College New York awarded Floyd an Honorary Doctorate for her unique and valuable contribution to the arts, her commitment to music education, and her justice work.
Frederick Douglass Jazz Works is Floyd's award-winning body of compositions for jazz septet. Floyd has commissioned works, including a three-song cycle for voice and cello, in honor of the great contralto, Marian Anderson. She was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Project Grant for The Frances Suite, which celebrates the life of Frances Ellen Watkin Harper, and features an all-female ensemble of color. The Orrin Evans Trio, featuring Floyd, was named one of NPR Music's Best Live Sessions of 2021 for their powerful rendition of the African American Spiritual "Oh Freedom." Floyd has received fellowships and grants for her composition and justice work. She performs and lectures on the intersection of beauty, theology, justice, history, and the arts in performance centers, academic settings, and conferences worldwide.