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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, July 19, 2024


Virgin Islands literary scholar Dr. Barbara Christian died on June 25 in California at the age of 57.
Along with being the first African American woman to receive tenure at the University of California, Berkeley in 1978, Christian, who was born on St. Thomas, was the first Black to be promoted to full professor at the school in 1986. Additionally, between 1978 and 1983, Christian served as chairperson for the Department of African American Studies at the prestigious California university.
In 1991, Barbara won Berkeley's Distinguished Teaching Award, becoming the first African American to do so. In 1995, she was honored with the Phi Beta Kappa Award for Distinguished Teaching from the Northern California chapter of the society. And earlier this year the university chancellor awarded her the Berkeley Citation, "for distinguished achievement and for notable service to the university," the highest honor one can receive from the school.
Before those accomplishments, however, Christian served as a lecturer in summer programs at the then College of the Virgin Islands. She also delivered a major paper at the University of the Virgin Islands’ Folklife As Narrative summit in 1996.
"Too soon we have lost the creative and literary genius of Dr. Barbara Christian," said UVI President Orville Kean. "Dr. Christian made us all proud."
Christian graduated with honors from Marquette and was selected as the keynote speaker for the student body of the entire university. She earned her Ph.D. in Contemporary British and American Literature from Columbia University in New York.
Dr. Cora Christian, Barbara’s sister, said that her sibling authored and edited several books and almost a hundred published articles and reviews. She was best known for her landmark study "Black Women Novelists, The Development of a Tradition, 1892-1976" (Greenwood Press). Appearing in 1980, following the general rediscovery of the work of important women writers from the past, such as Zora Neale Hurston and Nella Larson, and with the rise to prominence of several younger authors, notably Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, "Black Women Writers" stimulated the embryonic field of African American feminist literary criticism.
To read more about Dr. Cora Christian’s memories of her remarkable sister, go to the People section in the Source.

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