By Linda Bonnin
As the University of Memphis gets ready to celebrate its centennial, two of its professors
knew they had to play a key role.
“We knew the centennial was coming up and this was something we had to do,” said Beverly
For the past three years, Bond, an associate professor in history and director of
the U of M’s African and African-American Studies program, and Janann Sherman, professor
and chair of the history department, have immersed themselves into producing two books
on the University’s history. One is a small, paperback pictorial; the other is a large,
hard cover book.
Dr. Janann Sherman and Dr. Beverly Bond have written two books about the U of M’s
history to help celebrate the University’s centennial celebration, which begins later
“We wanted to do a real history,” said Sherman, who handled the writing while Bond
took over the editing, a process that has worked on their two previous collaborations,
Memphis in Black and White (a history of the city of Memphis) and a picture book on Beale Street. “The hardest
part was deciding what should go in and what we would leave out. We didn’t want it
to be a dry, institutional history.”
Instead of focusing on chronology, presidential tenures or notable alumni for the
framework of the larger book, Bond and Sherman chose to format it around the school’s
five changes to its name and mission. They also decided to focus on telling stories
to give readers a feel for what it must have been like at the U of M over the past
“This university almost shut down on two or three occasions,” said Sherman. “It was
difficult for this school to survive, especially during the Depression. It was just
hanging on and John Brister (former president) was fighting to save it without strong
support from the state. I was surprised at how desperate the circumstances were in
Self-described late bloomers, Bond and Sherman earned their PhDs at ages 50 and 49.
They met in 1996 when Sherman was part of the committee that hired Bond for the history
department. Not only are they book collaborators, but they have also developed a program
on African-American women in American history, which they plan to begin offering online,
and they recently traveled to South Africa to explore setting up an exchange program
in Cape Town.
“We’ve blazed new trails together,” Sherman said. “We’re best friends.”
Bond has an especially strong affinity for their latest project since she has three
degrees from the U of M.
“I can’t imagine anybody else doing this,” she said. “This fell into our lap and we
decided it would be fun to do it together.”
After the coffee table book is released later this year and the pictorial book in
2012, they have another project in mind: preserving the history they have collected
for future generations.
“We can’t possibly use all of the photos and stories,” said Sherman. “That’s why we’re
committed to finding some other way to preserve it.”