Dr. Olivette Otele is breaking barriers for Black women in the United Kingdom’s higher education system. Otele has made history by becoming the first Black woman history professor in the UK, Blavity reported.
She was chosen to lead history courses at Bath Spa University’s Newton Park on Duchy of Cornwall campus, the news outlet writes. Otele—a native of Cameroon—has several degrees under her belt, including a degree in literature and history from the Paris-based Universite La Sorbonne, a Master of Advanced Study, and her doctorate degree. Her work has been featured in several publications and she has penned her own book. Otele’s work is centered on history and how it has shaped race and identity in the UK.
After being appointed, she took to Twitter to share her excitement about taking on the new role. “BIG NEWS: my people, @BathSpaUni has awarded me a professorship and a Chair in History,” she tweeted. “May this open the door 2many hard working women, especially WoC, even + specifically Black women, in academia in general & in History in particular. In strength, peace and love my ppl.”
Otele believes that exploring history is imperative to understanding the state of society today. She also says that opening up and generating conversations about what has happened in the past can create unity.
“I still (naively I’m told) believe that understanding the past and who we are as people will show us the way forward. History is about sharing stories and coming together as communities of people. That’s why one of my main areas of research is memory and memorialization of the past,” she said in an interview. “Understanding that each one of us has the power to make our world an interesting and wonderful place is crucial. Historians don’t just tell stories. They engage with the workings of human nature. Even ‘just’ telling the story is a powerful act that can be turned into a tool for social justice.”
This has been a big year for Black women in academia. In August, it was announced that for the first time in Harvard University’s history, four of the institution’s schools were being led by African-American women.