Dr. Bertha Maxwell-Roddey joined UNC Charlotte in 1970 as an assistant professor in the College of Education and has since been named the Frank Porter Graham Professor Emeritus.
Maxwell-Roddey started as an assistant professor to train teachers. According to the Charlotte Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, she was the first Black principal of Albemarle Road Elementary School, an all-white school in Charlotte.
“She had been an expert in desegregation because she was one of the first Black women to be the principal of a white elementary school in Charlotte,” said Dr. Sonya Ramsey, associate professor of history. When she came to UNC Charlotte, there were movements to establish Black studies programs erupting all over the country.
According to Ramsey, Maxwell-Roddey was actually the second full-time professor at the University following Dr. Julian Pyles, who joined in 1969 to work in the Math Department and left in the 70s to work Johnson C. Smith as a professor and administrator.
During her time at the University, Maxwell-Roddey helped develop orientation programs for students and “encouraged students to be activists, to engage in different types of activism,” Ramsey said. She started many programs that turned into multicultural programs and retention programs.
She was the first chair of the Afro-American and African Studies Department at UNC Charlotte, according to the South Carolina African American History Calendar (SCAAHC). According to Ramsey, she encouraged students to teach and take on leadership roles.
“The Black Studies office became a home away from home,” Ramsey said.
In 1974, Maxwell-Roddey co-founded the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.
“They saw that urban renewal was really bulldozing many of the black neighborhoods in Charlotte,” Ramsey said. As an active community and university member, Maxwell-Roddey raised enough money to get support from the community.
According to the (SCAAHC), she was an active member of the Gamma Lambda Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and built over 350 houses in the United States, the Caribbean and Africa with Habitat for Humanity. Dr. Maxwell-Roddey profoundly impacted many of her students and retired in 1986 after 16 years at UNC Charlotte.