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Interview with Dawn Bennett-Alexander, October 12, 2012

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:30 - Family History and Education

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Partial Transcript: Good morning Dr. Bennett-Alexander.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Dawn Bennett-Alexander introduces herself, first stating she was born in Washington, DC and provides her familial background. Her father was a minister and government worker, while her mother was primarily a homemaker, but occasionally took on employment. Both were involved in the community, as her mother organized the first block group in the neighborhood. Bennett-Alexander has three daughters, all named "Bennett" due to her father's belief in primogeniture and was very concerned for his name being carried on. She studied at Federal City College, Defiance College, and Howard University for law school.

Keywords: Anne Alexis Bennett-Alexander; Defiance, Ohio; Federal City College Charter Class 1972; Howard Law; Jennifer Dawn Bennett-Alexander; Tess Alexandra Bennett-Harrison; University of DC; University of DC Charter Class 1972

00:03:49 - Work Experience and Arrival at UGA

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Partial Transcript: Alright, um, Dr. Bennett-Alexander, you are known for doing work in the area for diversity and inclusion...

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer provides background information about Dr. Bennett-Alexander's achievements. She states Bennett-Alexander is know for her work involving diversity and inclusion, but also Employment Law, specializing in discrimination. She is the co-author for the leading employment law text in the field and won the highest honor award offered by the University of Georgia. Bennett-Alexander has taught at the Terry College of Business for the past twenty-five years, but when she first arrived, there were no black staff and few black students. Before arriving, Dr. Charles B Knapp had given initiative for more qualified black staff to be hired, which led to them making her an offer. At first, she did not want to come due to the University's and the state of Georgia's racial history. She admits to feeling like she had to accept the offer because they needed black staff. She'd taught Employment Law previously for five years and wrote the first textbook while being the only one teaching the subject across the United States. Bennett-Alexander describes her mission as to get as many people as possible to understand employment discrimination before getting into the workplace.

Keywords: Dr. Martin Luther King Fulfilling the Dream Award; Employment Law for Business; Martin Luther King (MLK); McGraw Hill Publishing Company; UGA; University of North Florida

00:10:29 - Inspiration for Work/ March on Washington

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Partial Transcript: So, a big part of that has been diversity and inclusion...

Segment Synopsis: Bennett-Alexander shares that part of her inspiration comes from her three daughters, who she did not want growing up in a world that only saw them for their skin color and gender. While she tries to change the world in a classroom and through her writing, she also recognizes that her mission began with Martin Luther King Jr. and his March on Washington. Her father was involved due to his position as a minister, so her entire family attended the march when she was twelve. She recalls what she remembers of the march, and her thought that it was strange that Dr. King was talking about her and people like her, because she felt that so many people shouldn't have to get together to say they deserve to be treated as normal people.

Keywords: August 1963; August 28, 1963; Civil Rights Movement; Marianne Williamson; Martin Luther King, Jr (MLK); Mary Travers; Noel Paul Stookey; Peter Yarrow; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); Washington, DC

00:15:43 - Experiencing Discrimination

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Partial Transcript: Were you aware of any overt discrimination at the time?

Segment Synopsis: Bennett-Alexander explains her position of being unaware of a lot of the discrimination going on during her childhood. She shares a story about her mother's movie theater trips with her friends. Her mother was light-skinned, whereas she and her father were darker. Bennett-Alexander's mother hated sitting in the "colored" section, so she would wait in line for the white section instead, which no one questioned due to her skin tone. Bennett-Alexander also tells about moving to their new home in D.C., which made them the first black family on the street. She noticed over the years that every white family that was there eventually moved out. She recalls wondering what they thought would happen simply from living near her and her family.

Keywords: 13th and East Capitol; 1955; Civil Rights; East Capitol Street; Gidget; Segregation; The Patty Duke Show; Washington, D.C.

00:19:37 - Exposure to the Black Power Movement

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Partial Transcript: I was at that, and when I ended up going to college...

Segment Synopsis: Bennett-Alexander remembers going to college in 1968, where she was conflicted with the idea of having to choose "being black" or enjoying the things she liked. Coming from a middle class background, her experience was that it was bad to be black, but the movement was about embracing and being proud to be black. She also takes time to appreciate how going to Howard University shaped her life. Their mission was to motivate students who could afford education to change the world. Her attendance made her not only grateful, but put the history she had witnessed into perspective and helped her understand the importance of being a part of history in the making.

Subjects: Black Power Movement; March on Washington

00:22:53 - Democratic National Convention

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Partial Transcript: And then, forty-five years later to the day, I found myself in Denver, Colorado waiting for the speech for the first black Democratic nominee for the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

Segment Synopsis: Bennett-Alexander relays how she and her sister went to the DNC without knowing what to expect of the process, but only caring to be there to witness history being made. Everyone was aware that some major historical thing was going to happen by having either a female nominee or black nominee. She describes her experience at the convention and all of the scheduled events within.

Keywords: 2008; Barack Obama; Democratic National Convention (DNC); Democratic Presidential Nominee; Denver, Colorado; Hilary Clinton

00:27:46 - Obama's Acceptance Speech

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Partial Transcript: We ended up with the hottest tickets in town, being for the speech itself that was going to be on the 45th anniversary of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech..

Segment Synopsis: At the DNC, Bennett-Alexander and her sister acquired two sets of tickets for Obama's Acceptance Speech. While in line for the speech itself, they noticed the woman in front of them who was there without her tickets, so they supplied her with their extra. Bennett-Alexander made a quilt of all the memories from her and her sister's trip, which included fabric copies of several photos, a napkin from a party, magazine covers, daily emails to family, and other mementos.

Keywords: 2008; Barack Obama; Democratic National Convention (DNC); Denver, CO; Hilary Clinton; Invesco Field; Martin Luther King, Jr (MLK); Weldon Latham

00:34:39 - Understanding the Importance of History

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Partial Transcript: The reason I would tell you about the quilt is because I want you to understand how important these issues that we're talking about, these big issues...

Segment Synopsis: Bennett-Alexander ties together all of her experiences and the stories she has shared to explain how they began with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and became a part of her as a person. As she got older and began to understand what she had witnessed. Her experiences impacted her, as well as how she taught her children. They also inspired her to follow her course of work to change the world as best she could for her children. Her books have diversity and inclusion at the heart of them. Her father taking them to the March also gave her a better sense of history, allowing her to recognize a historic opportunity at that moment so she could be a part of it. Bennett-Alexander also shares how she has kept a journal for herself since she was eleven and did the same for each of her children because each of their stories is a part of history.

Keywords: August 28, 1963; March on Washington; Martin Luther King, Jr (MLK); McGraw Hill; The Legal, Ethical, and Regulatory Environment of Business in a Diverse Society