The Marion Thompson Wright Reader, edited by Graham Russell Gao Hodges, the George Dorland Langdon, Jr. Professor of History and Africana and Latin American Studies at Colgate University, and the author of Black New Jersey: 1664 to the Present Day (Rutgers University Press, 2019), is the first book-length text on Marion Thompson Wright—the first African American woman to earn a PhD in history from a U.S. college or university. This Reader includes a seventy plus page biographical essay on Wright, a reviews and notes section, essays and Wright’s The Education of Negroes in New Jersey first published by Columbia University Press in 1941. Hodges utilizes a set of letters written by Wright to friends and family members as well as never published before images of Dr. Wright with family members; including photos of her children. There exists no more comprehensive a text on Wright in terms of the bibliographic sketch contained in this book and coupled with the writings of one of the foremost historians of the early twentieth century: Marion Thompson Wright.
Wright was a prolific writer and scholar. Her dissertation advisor was famed historian Merle Curti with whom she kept up a life-long correspondence. She published widely in the Journal of Negro Education and the Journal of Negro History (now the Journal of African American History) as evidenced with some of the essays in this Reader and was respected as a leading scholar of the history of African Americans and segregation in the public school system—the subject of her dissertation at Columbia. In his autobiographical sketch of Wright, Hodges does not shy away from the more personal aspects of her life including the fact that she lost custody of her children to her first husband after she chose to pursue her academic career and the fact that she suffered from depression, and eventually ended her own life. This book is a powerful and necessary text in the field of Black women’s intellectual history given Wright’s monumental impact on social work, historical studies, education and higher education counseling.
Hettie V. Williams Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of African American history in the Department of History and Anthropology at Monmouth University where she teaches courses in African American history and U.S. history.