Lydia L. English, class of 1985


Lydia L. English came to Brown in 1981 as a resumed undergraduate education student, after having worked in banking in the U.S. Virgin Islands for eight years. In this interview, English states that her initial motivation to receive a liberal arts education was her newfound interest “in how cultures interact,” gathered from her extensive work in the Caribbean. English talks extensively on the challenge of juggling an adult, professional, career life with an undergraduate education, particularly with regards to managing finances, as she supported herself throughout. She reflects on that which she missed out on as an adult undergraduate including the freedom to explore academic fields, try out internships, and have a social support system of peers.

English refers to her undergraduate experience as a Black woman as positive, allowing her to participate in the dialogue of the university and allowing for her voice to be heard, even though she doesn’t believe that any fundamental alterations to the race dynamics on campus were achieved through her contributions. She recalls the major campus issues at the time, citing post-modern feminist writing and critique as the primary emerging idea with which she was involved in the early ‘80s.

On the topics of race and gender, English cites the challenge of removing oneself to reflect on the issue, as one is forever interpolated in its effects. Comparatively, she says that gender is more quantifiable, if one looks at the disparities between men and women in the work place, also mentioning that the number of black faculty at Brown has not changed much over her 25 years at the institution. She closes the interview giving high praise and gratitude to Brown, saying that it opened her mind and spirit to the power of knowledge and the responsibility of such power, also allowing her to realize a life of learning and respect the profound potential and creativity in all human beings.

Part 1

Part 2


Recorded on October 3, 1994 in Rhode Island Hall, Brown University, Providence, RI
Interviewed by Derria Byrd

Suggested Chicago style citation: English, Lydia L. Interview. By Derria Byrd. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. October 3, 1994.


After a decade-long career in banking, Lydia L. English decided to attend Brown University where she received her A.B. in anthropology in 1985. She went on to earn a Ph.D. from Yale in 1991. She then returned to Brown, accepting a position at the Dean’s Office, and teaching part-time in the African American Studies department.