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Dr. Johnnetta Cole Biography

Bennington College 2014 Commencement Speaker

Dr. Johnnetta Cole is the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC. Prior to assuming this position in 2009, she had a long and distinguished career as an anthropologist, humanitarian, and educator. As former president of Spelman College and Bennett College for Women, she is the only person to have served as president of these two historically Black colleges for women in the United States.

Dr. Cole has conducted research in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States, and she has authored and edited several books and scores of scholarly articles. She has been awarded 61 honorary degrees and is the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of her work addressing racial, gender, and all other forms of inequality. In 2010, Ebony magazine listed her among the 100 most influential African Americans, and in 2011, Washingtonian magazine listed her among Washington, DC’s most powerful women.

Dr. Cole is a fellow of the American Anthropological Association and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the Boards of Trustees of the American Association of Art Museum Directors, Gregory University, in Uturu, Nigeria, and the National Visionary Leadership Project. She is also a member of the Toni Morrison Society, the National Council of Negro Women, and is Professor Emerita of Emory University, from which she retired as Presidential Distinguished Professor of Anthropology.