Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. History Dept.


Cedric Gael Bryant

Second Advisor

Cheryl Townsend Gilkes (reader)

Third Advisor

Elizabeth D. Leonard (reader)


Ethel Ray Nance, midwife of the Harlem Renaissance, forerunner in the movement to preserve African American history and soldier for Civil Rights, used her life well. Born in Duluth, Minnesota in 1899, Ethel Ray Nance spent her childhood in an overwhelmingly white community. The daughter of Inga Nordquist Ray, a Swedish immigrant, and William Henry Ray, an African American from North Carolina, Ethel Ray learned at an early age that the color of a person's skin was a determining factor in the treatment he/she received. Ethel Ray Nance had a vision of a world in which "we respond to people not color". She dedicated her life to this vision, spending over seventy years fighting against racism, discrimination and the ill treatment of human beings.

My Senior Scholars' paper is about Ethel Ray Nance's life. The writing of this biography has been an act of recovery: the recovery of a life that teaches about joy, pain, happiness, struggle, and the necessity of believing in oneself and fighting for what one knows in one's soul to be true and good. It is not a biography of a famous woman, but it is a biography of an influential woman.


African American history, Civil Rights, racism, biography, influential women


Full-text download restricted to Colby College campus only.