Kevin Rolle is the Executive Vice President/COO of Alabama A&M University (AAMU). He has been at the heart of developing this university into one of the nation’s best, and most inclusive. Alabama has a long history of attracting minority and disadvantaged populations into education, something that Rolle in particular is very proud of. This is why he felt that it is very important to discuss the important role women have played in the development of not just that state, but the country as a whole, and even the world.
Helen Keller’s family was German, but she was born in Ivy Green Tuscumbia, AL. Her father was Captain Arthur Keller of the Confederate Army. She became a famous activist, author, and lecturer. She was also the first ever deaf-blind person to have graduated from college. Keller wasn’t born deaf-blind, however. At 19, she became ill with what is now believed to have been either scarlet fever or meningitis, leading to her disability. Her teacher Annie Sullivan, however, taught her to communicate again and to use the Tadoma method.
The Tadoma method is one where the lips and throat of a speaking person are touched, so that their language is understood. Additionally, letters can be spelled on a palm. Keller also learned to read Braille, through which she was able to read Latin, German, Greek, French, and English. She quickly became a highly outspoken author and traveled the world to fight the threats of war. Her play and film The Miracle Worker showed her belief in progressive causes such as women’s suffrage, socialism, and worker’s rights.
American actress, film producer, model, and actress Courtney Cox was born in Birmingham, AL to a very wealthy family. She grew up in Mountain Brook Birmingham, in a very rich suburb, where she became a cheerleader, swimmer, and tennis player. She studied architecture and interior design at Mount Vermon College for Women, but dropped out in pursuit of a modeling career in New York, during which time she also took acting and speech lessons.
Rose Parks is perhaps the most famous African American female civil rights activist, born in Tuskegee, AL to a teacher mother and carpenter father. Her heritage was African American, Scottish Irish, and Cherokee Creek. She grew up in a period of discrimination and segregation due to the Jim Crow Laws, which forced African Americans to sit at the back of the bus on public transportation. School buses were not available for black people at all. Rosa Parks, in December of 1955, disobeyed James Black, the bus driver, who told her to give her seat up to a white passenger. This defiance gave birth to the Modern Civil Rights Movements, who adopted Rosa Parks as their icon against racial segregation. Parks joined forces with other civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., helping him launch his career in the Civil Rights Movement.
These women from Alabama have shaped and formed the state, and Rolle believes the world owes them a great debt of gratitude.