Women's History Month: A conversation with Julianne Malveaux, PhD

KAYLIN KENDALL DINES | 4/12/2011, 4:45 p.m.
When noted economist Julianne Malveaux set out to write a book about Black economic history,...
Dr. Julianne Malveaux

The second thing is that the rules of the game have always been rigged and yet we still played. It's important to understand that, to know that, and to revel in that for our young people, especially, and for all of us. We talk about things not being fair. When were they ever fair for Black people? It wasn't fair when Free Frank had to purchase himself. None of this stuff was fair. And yet we did it anyway. That is something else that we really need to be very, very clear about.

I think the third thing is that there are some stories in this book that are so moving, inspirational and powerful. Think about some of the people. A Maggie Lena Walker for example. Everybody knows about Madam C.J. Walker, but what about Maggie Lena Walker? You look at some of the other people--of course W.E.B. DuBois is in here and everybody knows Dr. DuBois, but how many people know about Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, the first Black woman to get a PhD in economics?

Q: Economically speaking, African-Americans are behind significantly. Speak to the notion of "catching up." What are your thoughts?

A: We will never catch up and that's okay. We're not going to catch up, because when you talk about wealth--we used to be somebody's wealth, you know what I mean? We used to be that which was owned and so, basically, wealth is about accumulation and we, basically, are behind in the process of accumulations.

So unless there are reparations or exogenous infusions of extraordinary capitol--unless something happens to give us more money, we're not going to catch up, but can we still live good lives. Can we still be competitive? Of course. We need to be better organized. We're not even organized individually. We know there are a whole bunch of things that are what you call the "tried and true" rules, such as saving, paying yourself first. We need to deal with financial literacy.

Q: What keeps you motivated?

A: First of all, I'm motivated by my young people, by the possibilities and the notion that we should be the bridge that they can walk across to a better future. To have the privilege--and I really consider it a privilege--to be able to be an educator. Because, basically, that means people are trusting me with their minds. Faith motivates me. Everybody has bad days and down days, but you can randomly pick up a Bible and just open to a page and find something that's going to fire you back up.