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A sharecropper's daughter: Ruth J. Simmons' Journey

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From a sharecropping family in Jim Crow Texas to becoming the first Black president of an Ivy League university, former Brown University president, Ruth Simmons, writes about her incredible life in her memoir “Up Home: One Girl's Journey."

Simmons tells the story of how her close-knit family struggled before civil rights to find their place in Houston’s Fifth Ward after moving from the red clay countryside of East Texas. And she answers the question about how she was able to make her way from a world of homemade hand-me-down dresses and ill-fitting shoes to gaining a world class education and leading an Ivy League university. The answer is hard work and the help of people who saw in her someone who can make a difference.

Trinity University will host Ruth J. Simmons as the 2024 DeCoursey Lecturer. Simmons will talk with Trinity President Vanessa B. Beasley, Ph.D., about her remarkable journey to university presidency and her trailblazing efforts to promote colleges and universities as these communities have come to terms with their histories relative to slavery. The event will take place in Stieren Theater at Trinity University on Thursday, February 29, at 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, and no tickets are required.


Ruth J. Simmons is a Distinguished Presidential Fellow at Rice University and adviser to the president of Harvard University on HBCU initiatives. She served as president of Prairie View A&M University until March 2023. Prior to joining Prairie View, she was president of Brown University from 2001-2012 and president of Smith College from 1995-2001. She has a Ph.D. from Harvard and is fluent in French. Simmons details her life story in her New York Times bestselling book, "Up Home: One Girl’s Journey," which was named a New Yorker and New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year.

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255 or email thesource@tpr.org.

This interview will air on Monday, February 5, 2024.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi