Author Adventures Supporter John Corcoran as guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show

Tennessee State University, Where Writers Inspire

Tennessee State University is an HBCU institution that has spawned numerous high achievers, including writers and publishers, ranging from Mabel Smythe-Haith, who served as an instructor, to alum Oprah Winfrey.

The stately campus is located near Hadley Park in Nashville. Tours can be arranged through

Mabel Smythe-Haith

Mabel Smythe-Haith (1918-2006) was an American diplomat who taught at several Black colleges and universities, including what is now Tennessee State University.

According to “Among her published writings are The New Nigerian Elite (Stanford University Press, 1960), co-authored with husband Hugh Smythe, and the widely used The Black American Reference Book (Prentice Hall, 1976), of which she the principal editor.  Her scholarly articles appeared in the journals Social ForcesJournal of Negro EducationSouthwestern Social Science Quarterly, and American Scholar, among other publications.”

She served as a US ambassador to multiple nations, including Syria, Cameroon, and the Republic of Equatorial Guinea. Her papers are held at the Library of Congress:

Sign at the Nashville International Airport

Oprah Winfrey

The legendary Oprah Winfrey (1954- ) lived in a small brick home in Nashville as an adolescent and attended Tennessee State University before embarking on her celebrated career in broadcasting and publishing. She is also the first Black woman in the world to become a billionaire. She not only began the prolific OWN network corporation, but also established a magazine publishing empire through O magazine and became known as a discerning philanthropist, including benefiting a hunger project in Nashville through her alma mater and launching a rigorous secondary school for girls in South Africa.

To see the places that were part of her life in Nashville, watch this clip that aired on her talk show:

The Oprah Book Club is a popular source of recommended books. Read about it here:

Importantly, one of the guests interviewed on the Oprah Winfrey Show was John Corcoran, whose foundation helps to make Author Adventures possible. Watch his story here:

Tennessee State University is the second stop on our Tennessee Author Adventures Trail.

Patricia Smart