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2021 Honors Dr. Barbara Jones

Barbara Ann Posey Jones was the second of two daughters born to Weldon and Alma Posey who moved to Oklahoma City from small rural communities in north Texas.  Though both came from respected families there were no opportunities for education for Blacks in these communities beyond what would now be called middle school years. In spite of their own backgrounds, however, there was never a question that the Posey girls would go to college. The older one, Alma Faye, went to what is now the University of Central Oklahoma and Barbara to the University of Oklahoma.

Life in the Posey household ceased to be ordinary on a Sunday evening in August of 1958 when the girls and a group from the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council heard the story of the Youth Council members in Wichita, KS who had desegregated the lunch counters in their city by “sitting down” and refusing to leave until served. With the support of Clara Luper, Youth Council Advisor, the group decided to do what had been done in Wichita.  Katz Drug Store was the only establishment in Oklahoma City that was open on Sunday night, so it became the target for the first of the Oklahoma City sit-ins.  Barbara was designated to be the spokesperson for the group. Her only response when being told that Katz did not serve Blacks was to say:  “Thank you, we’ll wait.” This became the first extended sit-in movement in the country and resulted in the desegregation of eating establishments across the Oklahoma City and beyond.

In May of 1960, Barbara graduated from Douglass High School and went on to OU.  She lived in the dorms and participated in a variety of campus activities. After graduation, she entered the graduate program in economics at the University of Illinois where she wrote a master’s thesis on economic status of African-Americans and case studies of the efforts of trade unions to improve that status.  As was the case at OU she continued activities with groups active in the civil rights struggle. At the U of I she met and married a fellow graduate student, sit-inner and activist, Mack Jones, who like almost all of the African-American graduate students at Illinois had attended historically black colleges and universities as an undergraduate. 

After leaving Illinois in 1966 the Joneses went to Houston where they joined the faculty at Texas Southern University. The following year they moved to Atlanta.  She taught one year at Atlanta University before continuing her graduate studies in economics at Georgia State University.  Her dissertation was on labor force participation of Black women.  She continued research on the well being of African Americans as she taught and worked as an administrator at Clark College (17 years, including a year in Nigeria at Amadu Bello University in Nigeria), Prairie View A&M University (10 years) and Alabama A&M University (18 years), all HBCUs; participated in and gave leadership to the National Economic Association, the association of HBCU business school deans, the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business, Honda Campus All Star Challenge, and various other academic and community groups. Throughout her career, she always maintained close personal relationships with students. She is the mother of Patrice Lumumba Jones, CEO, Enlight Media and former VP for Global and Creative, Pearson Higher Education; Tayari Jones, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Creative Writing at Emory University and New York Times bestselling author; and Bomani Jones, ESPN sports commentator. Dr. Jones retired from AAMU after 48 years in higher education as Professor Emeritus in 2016.