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Cynthia L. Brantley (1943-2018)

Cynthia Louise Brantley passed away quietly in her Davis home on September 20, 2018, after courageously fighting Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration for 8 years. Born March 13, 1943, to Tom Blake and Rachel (Allen) Brantley, raised by her parents in Port Arthur, Texas, and known to her friends and family as Cindy, she was an African History Professor for 37 years at University of California, Davis, from 1972 until she retired in 2009. clb.photo

Cindy graduated summa cum laude with a BA in History from the University of Texas, Austin, in 1965. Her interest in Africa began when she spent 9 months on a Rotary fellowship to an international graduate school at Ibadan, Nigeria. This experience led her to graduate school at UCLA, which then had 5 African history professors and where Cindy earned her PhD in1972.

During this time, the UC Davis History Department was under pressure to hire female faculty. Cindy was one of three candidates interviewed for the position and was selected, making her the first-ever woman hired by the History Department and the first Africanist.

In addition to her Africanist position, Cindy was asked to develop an undergraduate course in American Women’s History, which she taught and quickly filled with at least 100 students. Because no textbooks were available in this field, Cindy developed her own syllabi and resources. Because of her groundbreaking work, the University developed an interdisciplinary curriculum in American Women’s History. This soon led to the creation of the University’s Women’s Resource Center.

As the first female member of the History Department, Cindy was asked to serve on many campus committees. She agreed to serve on at least 30 of these in her first few years because she believed it was important to have women represented. One of these committees subsequently created the Women’s Studies program.

During her 37-year career at the University, Cindy mentored many graduate students, several of whom are now Africanist professors at other universities. Cindy also received many awards, including the Chancellor’s Award for Mentoring Undergraduate Research. In addition to her research on the African continent, Cindy also mentored UCD students in several African countries through UC Davis International Programs.

Cindy never knew a stranger. She was warm, loving, and generous. She was responsive to her students, giving them needed emotional and financial support, and then asking them to not pay her back but instead to “Pay it forward.”

An avid collector of books, Cindy’s hobbies included domestic and international travel, camping, skiing, and bird and whale watching. Cindy is survived by Nancy Peden, her Domestic Partner of 36 years, her sister Betty Sue Norton (Donald) of Katy, TX, her nephews David Norton and Mark Norton, as well as great nephews and nieces.

Friends are welcome to attend a Celebration of Cindy’s Life from 2 to 4 PM, on Saturday, November 10, at the Stonegate Country Club, 919 Lake Blvd., Davis, CA.

In celebration of Cindy, donations can be made to the University of San Francisco Memory and Aging Center, to Davis Community Meals & Housing H Street Shelter, or to your favorite charity. (Obituary as submitted to the Davis Enterprise)

Her publications included:

Brantley, Cynthia. “Colonial Africa: Transforming Families for Their Own Benefit (And Ours).” In Families of a New World: Gender, Politics, and State Development in a Global Context, ed. Lynne Haney and Lisa Pollard, 139-55. London: Routledge, 2003.

Brantley, Cynthia. Feeding Families: African Realities and British Ideas of Nutrition and Development in Early Colonial Africa. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002.

Brantley, Cynthia. “Kikuyu-Maasai Nutrition and Colonial Science: The Orr and Gilks Study in Late 1920s Kenya Revisited.” The International Journal of African Historical Studies, 30/1 (1997): 49-86.

Brantley, Cynthia. The Giriama and Colonial Resistance in Kenya, 1800-1920. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.

Brantley, Cynthia. “Mekatalili and the Role of Women in Giriama Resistance.” In Banditry, Rebellion and Social Protest in Africa, ed. Donald Crummey, 333-50. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1986.

Brantley, Cynthia. “An Historical Perspective of the Giriama and Witchcraft Control.” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 49/2 (1979): 112-133.

Brantley, Cynthia. “Gerontocratic Government: Age-Sets in Pre-Colonial Giriama.” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 48/3 (1978), 248-264.

Submitted by Chau Johnsen Kelly, University of North Florida