When you’re a child whose house is just around the corner from Dr. Martin Luther Jr.’s family, like Dr. Armenta Early Hinton once was, advocating for diversity and inclusion becomes a part of you.
The 2013 graduate of Antioch’s Leadership and Change PhD program, and director of Diversity & Inclusion and Title XI coordinator for Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, has pursued other interests and talents throughout her life — she earned a B.F.A. in music history and piano, and studied for a master’s in music, served for five years on the board of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and was the chair of the education committee for the Birmingham Symphony orchestra — but she keeps coming back to what you might call her “home” —working toward equity for students.
“I don’t know how to do anything else. I have other skills but something always draws me back to diversity and inclusion and equity,” said Hinton. “It is a part of my identity.”
Hinton grew up in “a very segregated” Montgomery, Alabama “the bedrock of the civil rights movement,” she said. For the first 12 years of her education she attended all-black Catholic schools and went on to earn her first degree at the historically black college, Alabama State University — the same campus where her parents met and earned their degrees (called Alabama State College at the time). Her parents were both teachers at all-black schools in Alabama and segregation was part of her reality. Her mother was a third-grade teacher and an assistant principal at a primary school in Lowndes County —which is one of the poorest counties in Alabama — and her father was a math teacher at Hudson High School in Selma, Alabama.
Throughout her childhood, particularly during the height of the United States civil rights movement, and into adulthood, Hinton developed a keen awareness of the division between the races in the South and across the country, and “realized who she was in America.”
After living in Europe for 16 years, Hinton started to think about earning her PhD, driven by a commitment to education and learning that was instilled in her by her parents and a desire to become a more nimble leader.
“My family valued education and made it such an important part of our lives that I couldn’t do anything else,” said Hinton. “When I got back to the US I felt a deficit. After reentering America again after being away for 16 years I felt that I needed to continue my education and be better prepared for a climate that hadn’t changed and didn’t feel inclusive.”
She chose Antioch because of its dedication to social justice, with the aim of learning more about what she calls the “dual education system in America” and segregation issues, which became the focus of her dissertation.
Hinton said she put that knowledge into practice throughout her career and most recently in the role that she has held at Elizabethtown College for the last five years, where her job is to lead the campus on issues of Diversity & Inclusion and Title IX (a federal civil rights law that was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protects people from educational discrimination based on sex).
Some of her achievements have been institutionalizing MLK celebrations and bringing equitable Greek-life options to students by creating avenues to charter black Greek-life organizations at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. At Elizabethtown College, she started a program for faculty in 2018, which provides them with resources to develop their interests in Diversity & Inclusion. The Diversity Faculty Fellowship includes stipends and time for research. One fellow is working on a project in universal design — creating a classroom environment that is accessible to all people, regardless of age, disability, or other factors. Hinton is also a recipient of a Torch of Global Enlightenment Award from the World Affairs Council.
She credits her parents for her love of education and focus on diversity, inclusion, and social justice. She said that through this work she is helping to make sure that people can bring their best selves to the table, and celebrate their diverse talents.