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A Black Woman's Journey from Cotton Picking to College Professor

Lessons about Race, Class, and Gender in America


Menah Pratt-Clarke

A Black Woman's Journey from Cotton Picking to College Professor:  Lessons about Race, Class, and Gender in America traces the journey and transformation of Mildred Sirls, a young Black girl in rural east Texas in the 1930s who picked cotton to help her family survive, to Dr. Mildred Pratt, Professor Emerita of Social Work, who, by lifting as she climbed, influenced hundreds of students and empowered a community.

As a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and scholar-activist, Mildred lived her core beliefs: she felt that it was important to validate individual human dignity; she recognized the power of determination and discipline as keys to success; and she had a commitment to empowering and serving others for the greater good of society. Such values not only characterized the life that she led, they are exemplified by the legacy she left. A Black Woman's Journey from Cotton Picking to College Professor reflects those core values. It celebrates ordinary lives and individuals; it demonstrates the value of hard work; and it illustrates the motto of the National Association of Colored Women, “lifting as we climb.” 

A Black Woman's Journey from Cotton Picking to College Professor can be used for courses in history, ethnic studies, African-American studies, English, literature, sociology, social work, and women’s studies. It will be of interest to sociologists, anthropologists, historians, political economists, philosophers, social justice advocates, humanists, humanitarians, faith-based activists, and philanthropists.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Pratt-Clarke, Menah A. E., author. Title: A black woman’s journey from cotton picking to college professor: lessons about race, class, and gender in America / Menah Pratt-Clarke. Description: New York: Peter Lang, 2018. Series: Black studies and critical thinking; Volume 107 | ISSN 1947-5985 Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2017036940 | ISBN 978-1-4331-4973-3 (hardback: alk. paper) ISBN 978-1-4331-4974-0 (pbk.: alk. paper) ISBN 978-1-4331-4970-2 (ebook pdf) | ISBN 978-1-4331-4971-9 (epub) ISBN 978-1-4331-4972-6 (mobi) Subjects: LCSH: Pratt, Mildred, 1928–2012. | African Americans—Social Conditions—20th century. | African American sociologists—Biography. | African American women college teachers—Biography. | Race Discrimination—United States—History—20th century. | Race Relations—United States—History—20th century. | Civil rights Movements—United States—History—20th century. | African Americans—Civil rights—History—20th century. | Sociologists—United States—Biography. | Women college teachers—Biography. Classification: LCC E185 .P73 | DDC 301.092 [B] —dc23 LC record available at DOI 10.3726/b11827 Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek. Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at

© 2018 Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York 29 Broadway, 18th floor, New York, NY 10006 All rights reserved. Reprint or reproduction, even partially, in all forms such as microfilm, xerography, microfiche, microcard, and offset strictly prohibited.

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