Marguerite Ross Barnett (1942-1992)

By University of Houston – Head shot of Marguerite Ross Barnett, Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8538267

Marguerite Ross Barnett was born on 21 May 1942. Her Wikipedia page informs us that she was was the first Black woman to lead a major American university, as chancellor of the University of Missouri–St. Louis from 1986 to 1990. Barnett had a PhD from Chicago and taught at Chicago, Princeton, Howard and Columbia. She was the also first Black academic to study the Dravidian Movement and her book The Politics of Cultural Nationalism in South India (1976) is a rigorous academic study of the complex interplay of region, caste and ideas in Tamil Nadu. Her book credits Periyar as being chiefly responsible for radicalizing the Dravidian Movement and identifies him as a key influencer in the politics of the state. The book is an objective, methodical and critical study of Dravidian politics and a must read for those interested in the subject. Barnett’s book was written soon after the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam captured power in 1967 and is a historical record of the personalities, events and processes that shaped the post-independence politics of Tamil Nadu.

-Karthick Ram Manoharan

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