Spelman College announced on Tuesday that it will be funding its first-ever Chair in Queer Studies, making it the first historically black college or university (HBCU) with a queer studies program.
The new chair will be backed by $2 million from a fundraising campaign, plus a matching gift of $2 million from philanthropist billionaire Jon Stryker.
“Spelman College has long been at the forefront of LGBTQ inclusion and education among HBCUs,” Stryker said in a statement. “By supporting this chair, the goal is to engage and empower the next generation of LGBTQ advocates to create a better world.”
The funding will expand the amount of LGBTQ-related courses at the private women’s school. Moreover, students will be able to pursue a concentration in queer studies. The new coursework will be developed in connection with Spelman’s comparative women’s studies program at the Women’s Research and Resource Center.
Beverly Guy-Sheftall, founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center, told NBC News that she hopes Spelman’s black feminist and LGBTQ coursework will inspire similar curricula at other HBCUs.
Spelman plans to name the newly endowed Chair in Queer Studies after Audre Lorde, a pioneering poet, feminist, and black lesbian. Lorde spoke at Spelman several times, and her personal artifacts were donated to the college in 1995.
Lorde’s children, Jonathan Rollins and Beth Lorde Rollins, said in a statement that their mother would be “thrilled” by this honor:
“Our mother was deeply committed to LGBTQ youth and believed passionately in the power of scholarship, which to her meant learning plus excellence. She knew Spelman is a place where that magic happens, which is why she wanted her papers there, and she would be thrilled at this gift.”