- Openly lesbian feminist professor
- Member of the anti-Israeli group DukeDivest
- In 2003, invited domestic terrorist Laura Whitehorn to speak to students
Becky Thompson earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UC Santa Cruz in 1982, an MA in sociology from Brandeis University in 1986, and a Ph.D. in sociology from Brandeis in 1991. Describing herself as “a scholar, poet, and activist,” the openly lesbian Thompson has taught sociology at Simmons College in Massachusetts since 1996. Also during her academic career, she has taught variously at Wheaton College (1987), the University of Massachusetts at Boston (1987-89), Fitchburg State College (1990-91), Bowdoin College (1991-92), the University of Memphis (1993-94), Wesleyan University (1994-96), Trinity College (1996), Duke University (2002-03), and the University of Colorado (where she taught women’s studies and ethnic studies from 2008-10).
During her brief stint as a visiting professor in Duke University’s Department of African and African American Studies, Thompson became a member of DukeDivest, a group of students, faculty, staff, and alumni who called for the U.S. to end its financial and military aid to Israel, and for corporations and universities to divest whatever financial interests they had in the Jewish state.
Also during her time at Duke, Thompson in 2003 invited the convicted terrorist Laura Whitehorn to give a lecture (about the AIDS epidemic in prisons) to her “Teaching Race, Teaching Gender” class. Though Whitehorn had been sentenced to 23 years in prison for her role in the 1983 planting of a bomb in the U.S. Capitol Building, Whitehorn said: “Her [Whitehorn’s] work was actually the opposite of terrorism.”
Among the courses that Thompson has taught in Simmons University’s Sociology Department are: “Working for Social Justice,” “Poetry and Prose: 21st Century Voices of Conscience,” “Whiteness, Antiracism and Social Justice Work,” and “Birth and Death: The Sociology of Joy and Suffering.” She also has taught a leadership course titled “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World: Leaders for Social Justice,” and a doctoral course titled “Diversity in Education.”
In 1987 Thompson received a Ford Foundation grant for her Project on Women and Gender in the Curriculum, and in 1992-93 she received a Rockefeller Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Afro-American Studies from Princeton University.
Thompson published her poetry in a volume titled Zero is the Whole I Fall into at Night. She also co-edited two volumes of poetry: (a) Making Mirrors: Righting/Writing by and for Refugees, and (b) Fingernails across the Chalkboard: Poetry and Prose on HIV/AIDS from the Black Diaspora. Her scholarly books include such titles as Teaching with Tenderness, Survivors on the Yoga Mat, When the Center Is on Fire, and A Promise and a Way of Life: White Antiracist Activism.
In addition to her work as a professor, Thompson teaches yoga at the Dorchester YMCA in Boston and internationally (Greece, Thailand, China).