It’s not everyday you come across a professor who not only is an educator, but an artist herself. Dr. Tammy Brown, PhD, currently teaches at Miami University, where she inspires her students to get in touch with history to tell a story through creative means. With Black History Month quickly coming to a close, Her Campus wanted to know more about such an accomplished woman. We wanted to learn about what it is that drives her passions to not only be an artist, but to encourage others to take interest in worldwide African history that prominently shaped our country today.
Her Campus: Give us a little bit about your background.Tammy Brown: B.A. (magna cumm laude) Harvard University— History & International Relations, PhD Princeton University— American History & African Diasporic Studies, I’m a historian, visual artist and creative writer.
HC: What is your take on Black History Month? TB: First and foremost, Black History is American History; so, it should be observed and celebrated all year. Still, I understand and appreciate the historical and political significance of Black History Month. Historian Carter G. Woodson founded “Negro History Week” in 1926. In 1976 this observance was extended to one month. Overall, I think it’s important to acknowledge the struggles and triumphs of black Americans from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement to the present.
HC: I know that you are a Black World Studies professor with a PhD. What made you want to pursue that career path?TB: Even as a child, I loved to read about African American History. I credit my mother with piquing my interest in the topic. As an undergraduate at Harvard, I was awarded the Mellon Mentored Fellowship which allowed me to complete research and writing under the tutelage of a senior professor in order to learn more about a career in academe. I learned that I love the intellectual rigor, creativity and freedom of conducting original research. Also, I fell in love with writing as a very young age. I can still remember a short story that I wrote and illustrated in the third grade. In high school I wrote opinion editorials for The Cincinnati Herald newspaper. My creative writing and interest in engaging with a public audience informs my scholarship today.
HC: I know that your research is focused primarily on music. Why is that?TB: My current book project is a biography of Jimi Hendrix centering on the spiritual dimensions of his music. This project is an extension of my research and writing about how literary, visual and performance art may be used to raise political awareness.
HC: Are there any projects you are working on now and/or in the future? (Detail).TB: In fall 2014, I presented an art exhibit at The Gallagher Student Center Xavier University in Cincinnati. The Zendala Series, an exhibition of mixed-media photographs is inspired by the Buddhist monk tradition of mandala art, which uses brightly colored sand to create intricate, circular patterns, beneficial for centering oneself in meditation. Dr. Brown’s mixed-media images combine her ink drawings and digital photography to convey a modern take on the ancient spiritual practice.
HC: Anything else you’d like for readers at HC to know about this special month?TB: I love teaching! I’m passionate about the subject matter– American History and African Diasporic Studies. As Americans and citizens of the world, it’s important for Miami University students to understand black history in order to better understand the history of our nation as well as their own place in the world.