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A dynamic duo, Beverly Bond and Janann Sherman

Jan 2, 2013, 11:55 a.m.

By John Harkins, Ph.D. - Special To The Best Times

When called upon to introduce them, I generally refer to University of Memphis history professors Dr. Beverly Bond and Dr. Janann Sherman as “local history’s dynamic duo.” Unlike many of their fellow denizens in academe’s ivory towers, they project no scholarly distain at the mention of state and local history. They realize that, like the late U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s view of politics, all history is essentially local. Although they have gone through all of the academic hoops to earn their credentials and have each published a number of scholarly works, they have also published popular illustrated histories, devoted to Memphis and Tennessee. In a good bit of their published work, they have collaborated with each other. Not only have they co-authored such works, they are also willing to lecture jointly and to share their knowledge, perspectives and humorous anecdotes with their audiences. Finally, both of them have not only lectured before the West Tennessee Historical Society, each has also served “hard time” on the group’s executive board. Sherman has served a two-year term as president of WTHS, and Bond has served as one of its vice-presidents and at-large.

Both scholars have done cutting edge research in the areas of gender and ethnic studies. In their collaborative efforts they co-authored “Memphis in Black and White” and “Beale Street” (“Images of American Series”), both books published by Arcadia Publishing. Both women also have articles appearing in “Tennessee Women: Their Histories, Their Lives.” Bond’s article in this book of biographical sketches is “Milly Swan Price: Freedom, Kinship, and Property,” the story of an antebellum free woman of color. Sherman contributed “Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie: Wing Walker, Parachute Jumper, Air Racer” about the Memphis area’s most famous pioneer aviatrix. Bond and Sherman also co-authored two somewhat parallel books on the history of their institution. One is a “coffee table” style illustrated hardback entitled “Dreamers, Thinkers, Doers: A Centennial History of the University of Memphis.” The second is “The University of Memphis,” a paperback history also issued by Arcadia Publishing. Both books appeared as part of the university’s centennial observances in 2012.

Sherman also gives Omlie a book-length biography in “Walking on Air: The Aerial Adventures of Phoebe Omlie.” Sherman earlier had co-authored “The Perfect 36: Tennessee Delivers Woman Suffrage” with Memphian Carol Lynn Yellin. Sherman also penned a biography of Maine’s ground breaking U.S. senator entitled “No Place for a Woman: A Life of Senator Margaret Chase Smith.” Bond co-edited volume one of “Tennessee Women” with Sarah Wilkerson Freeman and is currently working with scholars in editing volume two.

Both Bond and Sherman have also published ample book chapters, and encyclopedia and journal articles. In addition to teaching their classes and grading papers, both women shoulder significant administrative responsibilities for the university. Sherman is chairwoman of the university’s history department, which may be a lot like herding cats. Bond served as the university’s director of African and African-American Studies programs for about 10 years, for which she earned the 2012 Dean’s Award for Advising Excellence. She also served a two-year term as chairwoman of Humanities Tennessee and a one-year term as president of the Southern Association for Women Historians.

One has to wonder what these dynamic ladies and powerful partners do with their spare time.

John Harkins is archivist at Memphis University School and president of the West Tennessee Historical Society.

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