Cynthia Fleming: Civil rights historian pushes learning





Cynthia Fleming has a remarkable memory.

For an associate professor of history at the University of Tennessee, this skill of quickly retrieving historical details comes in handy.

Without notes, Fleming flawlessly lectured on the civil rights movement while speaking to students in one of her African-American studies classes last week. In fact, Fleming humorously says she never uses notes.

As an oral historian who joined the Peace Corps in 1971 and served in Liberia, Fleming had the opportunity to listen to Liberians speak of their tribal history.

“I was so impressed with their memory,” she said. “They could recite their long history without any notes. I decided at that moment that I wanted to be an oral historian.”

Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Fleming would later enroll at Knoxville College. The institution’s hymn had been written by her grandfather, and she became the seventh member of her family to attend the college, thus continuing her family’s legacy.

“I went to Knoxville College during the late 60s, so I am part of the Black Power Generation,” she said.

The Black Power movement, along with a fascination of history, pushed Fleming to major in the field. She continued her studies at Duke to gain a Ph.D. with her dissertation titled “History and Philosophy of Black Education in Tennessee.”

Fleming did not know it at the time, but her dissertation would be a factor in her recruitment to UT. After graduating, she went to teach at Morehouse University. She would later be recruited by UT to fill a position that offered her teaching as well as research opportunities....



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