Scholar Turns Down Appointment to Head Black Studies Program at Ohio University After She Was Accused of Padding Her Resume

Last month, Thelma Wills Foote was named chair of the African-American studies department at Ohio University in Athens. Professor Foote was formerly head of the black studies program at the University of California at Irvine. She has spent the last two years as a visiting professor at the University of Southern Denmark.

But Foote turned down the appointment after it was revealed that she claimed co-authorship of the book Sally Hemings: An American Scandal by Tina Andrews. In fact, Foote had only written a five-paragraph introduction to the Andrews book. When questioned about the discrepancy on her C.V., Foote claimed that she had a substantial behind-the-scenes role in writing the book and should have received authorship credit. Authorship of two books is required by Ohio University for appointment to a tenured position.

Ben Ogles, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio University, told the Columbus Dispatch that he would have likely rescinded the appointment had Foote not voluntarily resigned. “Taking credit for somebody’s else work is not viewed very kindly in an academic setting like ours,” Ogles said.

Professor Foote is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. She is the author of Black and White Manhattan: The History of Racial Formation in Colonial New York City.