Melissa Harris-Perry's Anna Julia Cooper Center Closes Its Doors
|thenorthstar||May 7, 2019|
The Anna Julia Cooper Center (AJC Center), an interdisciplinary research center, will close on June 30. The center is located at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and promotes intersectional works from women of color, as well as social justice work at the local and national level.
“Last night I hosted the final public event of the @AJCCenter. The center will close on June 30. It has been an amazing experience and I am proud of what was accomplished,” founder and director Melissa Harris-Perry tweeted. She went on to thank former fellows, contributors, scholars, employees, and students who worked at the center.
“At the end of a wonderful experience — even when the end is brutal — it is right to say thank you,” the former MSNBC host concluded. “I am so grateful for @AJCCenter and all the lessons I have learned through this special place.” Trimiko Melancon, the inaugural fellow at the AJC Center spoke fondly of her time at the academic center and of Harris-Perry, who founded the center in 2012. Melancon told The North Star that the center’s “academic rigor and wide-ranging programming… stimulated scholarly engagement, cultivated intellectual community, and advanced intersectional work on women and girls of color.”
She added, “I know of no other center or institute with such focus, aims, or ambitions regarding women and girls of color; nor are there others that have done the work Melissa Harris-Perry has at AJC involving people and platforms ranging from the halls of academia to the walls of the White House.”
Melancon called Harris-Perry, the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair and professor of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University since 2014, a “dedicated, gifted, leader.”
Harris-Perry has had a rocky relationship with Wake Forest University. During a speech for the 39th annual MLK Noon Hour Commemoration at Union Baptist Church, Harris-Perry criticized the university for its role during slavery and its questionable labor practices.
Harris-Perry spoke of the institution’s connection to RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co., once the second largest tobacco company in the US, which trafficked enslaved people and was sued in 2004 for reparations. She also claimed the university fired its food service workers each summer and then rehired them in August when students returned.
The university disputed Harris-Perry’s claim and said that the dining service provider hires its employees on either a 10-month or 12-month term based on student demand, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. Days after her speech, Harris-Perry claimed the university retaliated against her by threatening to close the AJC Center and offering her a “payoff,” according to the Triad City Beat. “Academic freedom is truly dead @WakeForest,” Harris-Perry tweeted. “Two days after a public MLK address where I called into question the university’s labor practices Provost @rtkersh sends an email ‘inviting’ me to eliminate @AJCCenter as a university entity & offering a ‘goodwill’ payoff. #notforsale.”
Harris-Perry noted that, despite being a tenured political science professor, she did not have an office at the university. “There is no question that I am a ‘difficult employee,’” Harris-Perry tweeted at the time. “I don’t play nice or toe the line or pretend injustice does not exist. On Monday I reminded our community @WakeForest benefited from slavery & Jim Crow and we should raise questions as it encroaches downtown. #notforsale,” she wrote.
The university told the Winston-Salem Journal at the time that Harris-Perry’s comments were “misleading and disappointing.” Harris-Perry remains listed as a professor at Wake Forest University as of this writing.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.