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Angelene Jamison-Hall Steps Down from Teaching and Steps Into Her Next Career

After an academic career that has blessed the community of UC students, staff and faculty, Angelene Jamison-Hall is trying another track: writing fiction.

Date: 1/19/2009
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Ashley Kempher and Lisa Ventre
“I’ve been the long-distance runner of the department,” says Angelene Jamison-Hall. She has a thoughtful look in her eyes, as if she is now looking back in time, to the inception of what was then called the Department of Afro-American Studies. “I started as an instructor and now I’m leaving as a professor emeritus! That’s some history there!”
Joseph Takougang, recent interim department head, and Angelene Jamison-Hall
Joseph Takougang, then interim department head, led the festivities at Angelene Jamison-Hall's retirement celebration.

Jamison-Hall smiles at the memory of her early days at the University of Cincinnati. “I was just a girl!” she says.

After receiving a bachelor of arts in English with a minor in French from Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C., Jamison-Hall came to UC more than 30 years ago as a young graduate student, based on the advice of noted alumnus Darwin T. Turner. 

“I knew Darwin T. Turner as an undergrad,” she explains. “He’s the reason I came here.” With Turner’s recommendation and Professor Godschalk’s help, Jamison-Hall received a Fellowship in black literature and earned a master’s degree in English. She followed this with a PhD from The Union Institute in Yellow Springs where Turner was one of her professors. While still a graduate student, she began teaching African-American literature and American literature courses in the English Department at UC. Her title was instructor during these early years.

Angelene Jamison-Hall teaching a class in May 1995.
Jamison-Hall takes 30 years' worth of teaching memories with her.

A decision was made to pull all the courses pertaining to African-American culture out of the many departments and house them in one, at that time to be called the Afro-American Studies Department. Jamison-Hall resigned her job in the English Department and then turned around and applied for a new one in the Afro-American Studies Department.

“That’s how naïve I was,” she says, laughing. “I was just blessed that I got it.”

She stayed in the department and served as head from 1981 to 1987, developing courses in African-American literature, drama and culture. In 2002 she received the A.B. (“Dolly”) Cohen Award, which is given to a UC faculty member for excellence in teaching.

Jamison-Hall in 2002 after receiving the Dolly Cohen Award for
Jamison-Hall in 2002 after receiving the Dolly Cohen Award for 'Excellence in Teaching'

Besides seeing how young and naïve she was, herself, back in those days, she also sees a difference in how the students were back then, too. She felt that the students overall were excited about the opportunity to get an education and they were thankful for the chance to learn.

“Students of the past thought that education was the greatest thing,” she says. “Many were only the first or second generation in their families to go to college, especially the black students. When they looked up at the front of the room and saw a black professor in front of them, it meant something to them — black and white. They believed they could make a difference in the world.”

Jamison-Hall feels that same sense of empowerment around her now since the recent presidential election, similar to the atmosphere in the student body of the 1970s.“We have made significant strides in obliterating racism, but you have to institutionalize it,” she notes. “And it will take more than just a committee.” In spite of its past issues, though, Jamison-Hall says, UC has been a good place to work.

Jamison-Hall says of UC — as with any job — although “it’s had its ups and downs, I’ve enjoyed working here.” She adds, “I wouldn’t have been here for more than 30 years if I didn’t love it here. I’ve enjoyed my job, my teaching, my writing — and they’ve given me an opportunity to do that — despite whatever issues I was fighting against or fighting for.”

She is proudest of her teaching success, which was recognized when she won the Dolly Cohen Award.

Jamison-Hall in 2002
Jamison-Hall in 2002

“I am also proud of having been a part of bringing about a greater understanding among people, of making UC a better place to work, to go to school, to help students learn and make a better contribution to the world,” she says. Jamison-Hall also points to her record while in the department for social, intellectual, political and cultural works — as well as creative works. “The department used to have a theater and I was its director.”

Jamison-Hall says that on looking back she is proud of her writing, including her many publications in refereed journals and several short stories.

“I’d like to have written more,” she says. “That’s what I intend to do more of now.”

Looking at Jamison-Hall, one still sees the graceful, athletic build of a runner — which she was for a long time, until kidney disease slowed her down.

“You can only run for so many years,” she says, laughing. “Running is good for the ego but unless you’re running on perfect surfaces, running is hard on your body!” When she could no longer run anymore because of the kidney disease, she turned to walking.

Jamison-Hall, now in her fifth year after receiving a kidney transplant, counts receiving the kidney among the greatest blessings in her life. “That’s what made me want to write about it,” she points out.

Now Jamison-Hall is looking into her future. She’s moving into another phase of her life: that of novelist. She says she has been working on her first novel for “forever.”

Her novel is now in its fourth version and is almost ready for publication. “It’s time to let it go,” she says.

It’s time for letting go of many things, perhaps. Jamison-Hall has packed up her belongings from her office, including the syllabi and papers of students and courses long gone.

“I think you know when it’s time to retire,” she says. “Whatever I didn’t get a chance to do before, I’ll do in retirement.”

“I didn’t retire to sit down,” she adds, then pauses. “Well, I might sit some.”

However, it’s difficult to believe she’ll sit long.


Read more: Joseph Takougang: "We're here to celebrate the retirement of an institution."