Dr. Mary Agnes Lewis, 73, Bay Area Colleges and Universities Professor

Dr. Mary Agnes Lewis

Dr. Mary Agnes Lewis, a professor at Bay Area colleges and universities and an early leader in the “Black Consciousness Movement,” died on Sept. 4. She was 73. Born on Oct. 7, 1938 in Memphis, Tennessee to Theodore R. Lewis and Elizabeth Ann Lewis. She was educated in the Detroit Public School system and attended UC Berkeley where she completed a degree in anthropology and laid the groundwork for what is now known as the African American Association.” Both she and her brother Freddy were the catalysts to bring people together during the beginning stages of the “Black Consciousness Movement” in the Bay Area. Their house on Harmon Street became an intellectual salon where people congregated to share ideas, energy, strategies, love and friendship.  The group discussed Black literary pieces as well as ways in which they could make a difference within the local African American community. As the group evolved, it was visited by leaders such as Fannie Lou Hamer, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and poet Maya Angelou. Lewis received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Washington at Seattle after spending two years in Ghana. She taught at San Francisco State University where she was in the forefront of student demonstrations and negotiations, which ultimately led to the establishment of the Black Studies Department. She later taught at California State College at Hayward and eventually joined the faculty of Laney College as an adjunct professor where she taught until May of this year, serving also as chairperson of the African American Studies Department for a number of semesters. Lewis and her beloved Sherman L. Williams were together over 50 years, until his passing in 2008. She spent time with her close friends including Dr. Shaymala Harris, who she considered her sister, and her two daughters, Kamala and Maya.
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