A historian and storyteller
whose research interests include Black higher education and college student activism, DR. CRYSTAL A. deGREGORY is an associate professor of history and the founding director of the Mary McLeod Bethune Center for the Study of Women and Girls at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
About Crystal A. deGregory, Ph.D.
Known for her collaborative advocacy and entrepreneurial leadership, she is also the founder and director of two digital storytelling projects HBCUstory and Dorian and Beyond, a digital storytelling project of Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas. This gifted orator and sought-after commentator offers a wide range of expertise on multiple topics including race, women and girls, history, culture, education, and of course, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Hailed “young sister leader” by Spelman College and Bennett College President Emerita Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, Dr. deGregory’s words have appeared in The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, USA Today, TIME, Orlando-Sentinel, The Tennessean, Wall Street Journal, Market Watch, Los Angeles Times, The State Journal, Lexington Herald-Leader, The Key Reporter, Nashville Scene, The Atlanta Voice, Tri-City Defender, The Houston Chronicle, EducationDIVE, INSIGHT Into Diversity, The Nation, The Feminist Wire and Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
Her most recent publishing includes the forward to Heritage & Honor: 150-Year Story of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, and the op-eds “Here in the Bahamas, Every Generation Has Its Storm Stories. The Tale of Hurricane Dorian Is Still Being Written” and “How the Black Colleges Beyonce Honors in Homecoming Have Played a Vital Role in American History” for TIME.
A proud native of The Bahamas and a Phi Beta Kappa alumna of the historic Fisk University, she also earned Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in history from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Education from Tennessee State University. Among her myriad professional and civic affiliations is trusteeship of the Tennessee Historical Society, service on the Tennessee State Parks Black Heritage Advisory Committee and Mellon Fisk Portal to Rosenwald Collections Advisory Board as well as membership with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Most recently, she was inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Collegium of Scholars at Morehouse College, and, in December 2022, authored her first book Magic and Mortal (Juju Collective, 2022), which is an introduction to her poetic voice.
deGregory’s forthcoming book The Greatest Good: Nashville’s Black Colleges, Their Students, and the Fight for Freedom, Justice, and Equality is under contract with Vanderbilt University Press.
AS SEEN AND HEARD
MAGIC AND MORTAL
“ A compelling praisesong to Black women across generations.
She calls their names, captures their significance,
and we are moved and inspired.”
— Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Founding Director of Spelman College’s Women’s Research &
Resource Center and Anna J. Cooper Professor of Women's Studies
“This offering, captures, connects, and convinces as it artfully frames promise and
pain, happiness and hollowness, test and testimony. She moves us, unapologetically,
through decades of our now to our next!”
— Patricia Russell-McCloud, Esq., International Motivational Speaker
MAGIC AND MORTAL
is an introduction to my poetic voice as a historian and storyteller. Celebrating the nuanced facets of my Black girlhood, womanhood, and Caribbeanness, I endeavor to guide you, as readers, on a journey through the making of historically-Black institutions and their contributions toward cultural identity, personal triumph; collective joy, death; grief; and everything in between. Blackness is both a magical resistance and a mortal persistence, and this, in my first book of what will hopefully be many, I leave it all on the pages.
MAGIC AND MORTAL
is an introduction to my poetic voice as a historian and storyteller. Celebrating the nuanced facets of my Black girlhood, womanhood, and Caribbeanness, I endeavor to guide you, the readers, on a journey through the making of historically-Black institutions and their contributions toward cultural identity, personal triumph; collective joy, death; grief; and everything in between. Blackness is both a magical resistance and a mortal persistence, and in this, my first book of what will hopefully be many, I leave it all on the pages.
ROLES + RESPONSIBILITIES
“Next to God we are indebted to women, first for life itself, and then for making it worth living.”
As director, deGregory serves the most senior position of the Mary McLeod Bethune Center for Women and Girls, a campus unit that addresses women and girls’ unique needs in the American experience and beyond. Included in its foci are identifying challenges to gender equity at Bethune-Cookman University as well as crafting research and programmatic initiatives that seek redress for the preponderance of hurdles to success faced more widely by women and girls. deGregory’s responsibilities include day-to-day management of The Bethune Center’s priorities include envisioning, developing and growing its mission and vision; coordinating major programming events and ongoing programming activities; facilitating women and girls-affirming leadership development; and managing all staff, student interns and/or graduate assistants. Additionally, she directs collaboration across departments and divisions in service to the Center’s mission and vision.
Founded in 2012, HBCUstory serves as an advocacy initiative with a mission to, “preserve, present and promote inspiring stories of the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) community’s past and present, for our future.” HBCUstory’s goals are threefold: first, to curate — popularizing existing historical and contemporary facts about HBCUs; second, to cultivate — to encourage new and groundbreaking research on HBCUs; and finally, to distribute — to develop a respected publication and promotional platform to launch discourse and share new ideas.
Founded in 2021, Dorian and Beyond is a digital storytelling + story-keeping project that records and preserves interviews with survivors of Hurricane Dorian. Its oral history archive is accessible to interested members of the public via the project’s website. This curation responds to the urgent need to ensure that these stories are not lost. These individual testimonies constitute a collective memory, affirming a shared sense of trauma and loss as well as resilience. The personal, in this way, becomes public; and the individual is affirmed. This collection of stories is intended to be a cross-section of Bahamians who experienced Hurricane Dorian; it pays particular attention to survivors who were on The Abacos and Grand Bahama when the storm hit.
The Tennessee Historical Society is pleased to welcome Crystal A. deGregory, Ph.D., to our Board of Directors. Dr. deGregory, whose research interests include Historically Black Colleges and Universities and college student activism. THS Board President David Fox states, “With her expertise in Tennessee history and digital storytelling, Dr. deGregory is set to play an important role in helping THS engage more people in the history of our great state.”
Fisk University’s John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library’s $1.6 million grant from the Mellon Foundation supports a four-year project to build a new site to replace the Rosenwald School Database and digitize the entire Julius Rosenwald Fund archives. As an advisory board member, deGregory helps to guide the project’s conceptualization and strategic plan, and focuses on analyzing data and technological infrastructure planning to ensure the new portal.
Realizing that we are not immune from the impact of a static view of history, the TSP Black Heritage Advisory Committee created a vision of “every Tennessean, every year” to prioritize the goal of ensuring that Tennessee State Parks are welcoming spaces that share the stories of all Tennesseans in a way that informs and uplifts. As an advisory committee member, deGregory works to review park interpretation for print and digital use, create the Park Program Self-Assessment, guide interpreting sacred and solemn sites, and vet research materials, the committee is also laying the foundation for other advisory committees.
IN THE NEWS
We at HBCUs have long prayed with our hearts while moving this nation and the world towards a more perfect freedom with our minds, mouths, hands, and feet.
It is in her example that we find our mandate to serve any of the many causes she did: civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, the rights of access to clean, safe communities…
DIANE NASH MERITS THE PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM, BUT SHE DESERVES MUCH MORE
Fifteen years ago, I met Diane Nash on the Ride for Freedom. Her quiet courage and fierceness changed history, but her legacy is not known enough.
COLLEGIUM OF SCHOLARS
Established in 1985, as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. College of Ministers and Laity, the Collegium of Scholars is comprised of academics and scholars, who may or may not be in the professoriate, who are committed to research, writing, teaching, and mentoring in a wide variety of disciplines and contexts that promote and give support to the work of peace through moral cosmopolitan responsibility. deGregory and other honorees selected for induction have demonstrated and are evolving toward great achievement in their chosen vocation, a profound commitment to their community and society, the planet and the cosmos and are living their lives according to a high standard of cosmopolitan ethical options.
A MESSAGE FROM ME
As a historian, I believe in the incredible power of stories and in the tremendous responsibility of storytellers to not only put pen to paper or keystrokes to computer screens but to contextualize for readers and listeners alike, “the why” associated with the who, when, where and how. Despite the exceptionalizing of extraordinary behaviors, achievements, and sacrifice, human beings are characters and agents affecting the course of the past, present, and future. Human beings are humans doing—doing things good, bad, and in between. That is precisely why “the why” matters—because that is where the understanding we seek lies. That is history’s magic—and that is why history matters and always will.