McDonogh Voices - About - McDonogh School

McDonogh Voices

Understanding and learning from McDonogh School’s complex history is an important part of our ongoing institution-wide work to ensure our school is a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community—one where everyone has a true sense of belonging. McDonogh Voices: One School. Many Perspectives—a multi-year series of learning and discussion opportunities designed to give stories about our past a greater voice in McDonogh’s present and future—is integral to this work. 

The series was developed by a group of McDonogh alumni historians and scholars working in partnership with administrators, staff, and trustees. During the inaugural year, McDonogh Voices focused on our understanding of history.

2021-2022 Sessions

Dance Performance by Nile Russell ’00

Using historical research as inspiration, Nile Russell ’00 and his collaborators, Naana Badu '00 and Jenn Ford '00, composed an performed a dance piece that explores several complementary concepts and themes. His work highlights the dichotomy and complexity of McDonogh (the person and the School), the importance of creating greatness in difficult times, and a forward vision of the McDonogh community’s future. Nile served in residency at McDonogh for two weeks in order to teach and incorporate the talents of McDonogh’s theatre, dance, and gospel choir students in this performance.

Watch the performance from April 29.

Session I: History and the Inclusion of New Voices


Nadine Knight ’95, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies at College of the Holy Cross; Jessica Levy ’04, Assistant Professor of History at Purchase College, SUNY; and Upper School history teacher John Wood provided an overview of how history is understood and communicated and how various institutions and their disciplines have evolved in their understanding of the stories they tell about people who have been overlooked.

View the recording from Thursday, November 18.


Historians Ken Lipartito, Ph.D., professor of history at Florida International University and President of Business History Group, along with Patricia A. Watson, Ph.D., Vice President of Business History Group, are researching and writing a narrative history to commemorate the 150th anniversary of McDonogh School (which will take place during the 2023-2024 school year).

During the second session, the speakers discussed slavery and the slave trade in the United States, Baltimore, and New Orleans as well as John McDonogh's association with it. They also explained how other institutions with connections to slavery have analyzed and expressed their own pasts.

View the recording from Wednesday, March 2. 

Gallery Exhibit Featuring Artist Akea Brionne

Artist Akea Brionne is a photographer, writer, curator, and researcher whose personal work investigates the implications of historical racial and social structures in relation to the development of contemporary black life and identity within America.  A collection of Akea’s photographs was displayed in the Tuttle Gallery from November 15 through December 15.

Session III: The Memorial to Those Enslaved and Freed

Planning for a memorial to recognize and honor the enslaved peoples of John McDonogh has been in the works for nearly two decades. The journey began with the work of a passionate group of current and retired faculty, staff—including retired Art Department Chair Oletha DeVane—and Board members who brought light to the importance of doing justice to the memory of people whose labor contributed to the wealth that was the basis of our School’s founding. The memorial will honor the enslaved people and be used as a foundation for educating students more fully about this period in history. During this session, lead artist Oletha DeVane and artistic historical consultants Dr. Leslie King-Hammond and Dr. Lowery Sims discussed the evolution and meaning behind The Memorial to Those Enslaved and Freed.  

 View the recording from the March 22 session.

Session I: History and the Inclusion of New Voices - November 18, 2021

Session II: New Understandings of American Slavery and John McDonogh - March 2, 2022

Session III: The Memorial to Those Enslaved and Freed - March 22, 2022