When Marceline “Marci” Catlett speaks at the University of Mary Washington next week, she plans to mention some of the people who made an impact on her. Namely, civil rights icon and late Mary Washington professor James Farmer.
“Learning about Black history from Dr. Farmer and others helped mold me and provided me with knowledge, self-worth and confidence,” said Catlett, who became the first Black superintendent of Fredericksburg City Public Schools (FCPS) in 2019.
Next Wednesday at 7 p.m., she will deliver UMW’s Black History Month keynote address, presented by the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) and the College of Education, in the University Center’s Chandler Ballroom. Participants may also register to attend virtually.
“We are honored and delighted to have Dr. Catlett speak to UMW students,” JFMC Director Marion Sanford said of the talk, part of a monthlong celebration featuring art exhibits, musical presentations and more. “She is an outstanding trailblazer, role model and leader in education and service in our community, and I know her presentation will be enlightening and inspiring for all.”
A Fredericksburg native, Catlett first became acquainted with Farmer in 1987, when she played a pivotal role in establishing the James Farmer Scholars program, which gives local African-American students opportunities and prepares them to attend college.
“He would spend many sessions with us, sharing his experiences with children in the program,” said Catlett, who attended all three of Farmer’s memorial services – at the Kennedy Center, Mary Washington and Virginia Union University – in 1999. “It was incredibly moving to be in his presence and learn about sacrifice and courage directly from a civil rights leader.”
Hired in 1981 as a teacher at Walker-Grant Middle School, Catlett has spent over four decades serving in various roles in FCPS. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Virginia State University, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Virginia and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Virginia Tech. Catlett has also earned several notable accolades, including a 2017 UMW Patricia Lacey Metzger Distinguished Achievement Award. She delivered the commencement address in 2018 for UMW’s graduate students.
JFMC will also host events throughout the month of February as part of its Black History Month celebration, centered around a theme of Healing Through History: Recognizing Our Struggles While Celebrating Our Triumphs. Events include the cultural celebration Colors of Africa, discussions on Black mental health and social justice, film screenings of Just Mercy and Judas & the Black Messiah, a step show and competition, jazz and hip-hop performances, Great Lives lectures on Emmett Till and Ida B. Wells, game nights, cuisine from the African diaspora, and much more.
In addition, the UMW Galleries exhibit Healing Through the Preservation of Our Histories and Our Selves will be on view in the Ridderhof Martin and duPont galleries through March 24. Works by Faith Ringgold, Jacob Lawrence, Kara Walker, Sonya Clark and other renowned contemporary African-American artists will be on display, borrowed from the Petrucci Family Foundation’s collection.
Some events are held virtually and require registration. To learn more, please visit JFMC’s Black History Month page or contact JFMC at 540-654-1044.
In-person event participants, including students and children, must show a proof of vaccination or have a recent negative COVID test (within 48 hours) to enter. In addition, masks are required to be worn at all times inside campus buildings.
Students may begin applying today for scholarships, including the newly formed Taylor-Floyd Scholarship for Civic Leadership in memory of victims of acts of hatred and racism. Details are available on the Scholarship Application Website.