Francesca Davis ′08
I’ve been working on a project—the Crossroads to Freedom digital archive of civil rights materials—that has me thinking about what I want my legacy to be. Crossroads is helping me make connections within my hometown of Memphis, the city I love so much.
As one of several student project managers, I helped lay the groundwork for the archive. We tracked down source material and conducted oral interviews with people who were living their lives during what we have come to know as the in the Civil Rights Movement. When you’re interviewing, you’re just in awe of these people’s stories because everyone has a story to tell, whether or not they were actively involved.
In general, Crossroads has helped me incorporate many things I’ve learned in college—especially in terms of racial issues that continue to exist in Memphis and at Rhodes.
Coming to Rhodes from a public, predominantly African American high school was an unexpected culture shock. I found that different races and classes of people were not well integrated, and I was pushed out of my comfort zone for the first time.
I got involved with the Black Student Association, which provided a strong network. Nevertheless, it was hard to adjust that first year, and I made a conscious decision to stay at Rhodes and become more involved with everything it offers.
One of the people who helped me during that difficult first year, someone I greatly admire, is Professor Anita Davis. As an African American female student at Rhodes in the late 1980s, she started working for change on campus and in the community. Later she came back as a professor partly because she felt like she could do more.
Helping Professor Davis promote the African American Studies minor has made me more attached to this school. We work hard to make sure the message gets out to all students—not just African Americans—that we have this new program that is intertwined with many of our other departments, like History, English, Political Science, Religion, Music and others.
I also work with Professor Davis and Professor Chris Wetzel on the annual campus climate survey. The survey measures Rhodes community members’ responses to diversity of all kinds—race, gender, sexuality—and the results lead to an examination of how to increase awareness about issues that are still prevalent on our campus.
For a new perspective on minorities in schools, I’m spending a semester in Copenhagen. Denmark is an interesting multicultural context because they’re structuring their education to accommodate the current influx of minority populations. I never would have considered study abroad because my family couldn’t afford it, but the Buckman Center encouraged me to apply for a scholarship, and I got it.
Since my first year, I’ve definitely changed in my character and the things I stand for, and Rhodes has been a big part of that. I think Rhodes has changed, too. We’re headed in the right direction, but we can do more. I plan to go on to graduate school, teach elementary school for a while, but I’m already thinking about how I could come back here like Prof. Davis did.