Kent’s Black Studies Pioneer

Dr. Edward W. Crosby

Next week Dr. Edward W. Crosby, KSU Professor Emeritus is to be memorialized. The question is why? What did he do that was noteworthy? Here are just a few of his notable accomplishments. First of all he became a Black Studies pioneer when he established the Institute for African American Affairs, at Kent State, in 1969. Secondly, he became an edtech innovator when he used videotaped lectures to overcome budgetary restrictions imposed by Kent State administrators. He continued in that vein when he donated a PC to the Department of Pan-African Studies and placed it on Gladys Bozeman’s desk back in the early 80’s. Unfortunately, he’s rarely given credit for his most well known contribution to Black life and culture, Black History Month. 

Yes, Carter G. Woodson did establish Negro History Week as a thing, way back in the 1920’s. However, Negro History Week was never implemented outside of the segregated Colored Schools and even then it was not widely implemented in HBCU’s. Black History Month was another animal, all together. It began on the predominantly White college campus of Kent State and spread to other colleges. From there Black History Days/Weeks, etc. were established in integrated secondary schools, where it met with extreme opposition from White students and parents. 

Negro History Week never engendered this kind of visceral reaction from White folks, because it was limited to Colored Schools, churches and community events. Negro History Week was decidedly focused on the history of the American Negro, while Black History Month has had more of a Pan-African stance. Today, Black History Month is not just celebrated in the U.S., it’s celebrated all over the world in places as diverse as the U.K. and Japan.

Like Dr. Woodson, Dr. Crosby used Black History Month as means to an end, not an end, in and of itself. This may, in part, explain why he’s not widely known as “The Father of Black History Month.”

Why is Black History Month in February?

Frederick Douglass as a young man, circa 1852. CreatedByCrosby.com 2017

I’ve often heard people speak of an imagined conspiracy by White folks to short change us by “giving us the shortest month in the year to celebrate Black History. This is far from the truth and reveals a gap in our historical narrative, now known as Black History. I’d like to fill this gap with facts related to the creation of Negro History Week and Black History Month.

This morning I watched one of my favorite TV shows from childhood, Daniel Boone. I loved the theme song and found the show engaging in my youth. Years later as I watch some of the episodes, from one of the first weekly shows filmed in color, I still find some of the themes hold my interest.

This morning’s episode (season 6, episode 1) is all about Daniel’s son Israel and how he and his fellow students fought to include Indian studies in their school curriculum. This piece of revisionist history flies in the face of reality. In reality Indian Studies is still not included in grade school curricula. The episode “Readin, Riting, and Revolt” premiered on March 12, 1970, just one week after the first celebration of Black History Month. At that time the issue in the schools was the teaching of Black History, not Indian history.

Like the Indians, the American Negro was said not to have a history, therefore there were no Negro Studies Departments, lecturers or chairs at universities; not even at America’s historically Black colleges (HBCU’s). There were a few individuals who pioneered the documenting of Negro history and it’s study, but they were far and few between, struggling to withstand the onslaught of an American educational system that considered the study of Negro history to be “incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial.”

Carter G. Woodson has been dubbed the father of “Negro History,” however he was not alone in the effort to document the history of the Negro race. The documentation of African history goes all the way back to the age of the pyramid builders in Egypt and the historical writings in the Torah, the Christian Bible and the Quran. The Greeks, Romans, Ethiopians and Muslim scholars also documented much of the history of African people. Among the earliest recorders of Negro history are the likes of George Washington Williams, Delilah Beasley and Joel Augustus Rogers. Along with Carter G. Woodson, these individuals were some of the pioneers who forged a history for a people considered historical pariahs.

African people have been essential in the founding of the U.S. and it’s prominence as a world leader in every field, yet our story is still no more than a footnote in classrooms from Long Island, NY to Long Beach, CA. Why is that? Essentially, it boils down to one word, slavery.

With the advent of chattel slavery, the capture and exploitation of African peoples from Cape Town to Cairo, there was a need to dehumanize the subjugated Africans. In the course of dehumanizing Black people our story was deemed historically “incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial,” which is exactly how Indian Studies was described in the Daniel Boone episode I mentioned above.

This 1st wave of Negro historians were primarily concerned with balancing the historical scales, by showing how civilized Negroes were and proving that we were as good as White folks. Williams’ book The History of the Negro Race in America 1619–1880 was published in 1882 and is considered the 1st overall history of the American Negro. Carter G. Woodson published The Negro in Our History in 1922, while J. A. Rogers worked to popularize African history by publishing articles in numerous journals and periodicals, which eventually culminated in the publication of his findings in books, like The World’s Great Men of Color, 2 volumes, in 1947 and numerous other books, all self-published.

These early books represent some of the earliest scholarly attempts to document the history of the American Negro. I make a distinction here between Negro History and Black History.

The advent of Black History came about in the 1960’s with the rise to national and international prominence of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Martin was the last great Negro Leader, while Malcolm was the most influential leader of the Black Power Movement. The Negro struggle was characterized by a desire to be accepted as equals by Whites, while the Black Power Movement was characterized by a desire to be free of the mental, economic and spiritual shackles of White folks.

When Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week, in 1926, he did so with the intention of proving that the Negro was every bit as good as the White man. In fact, the selection of the date for the celebration was determined by the fact that Frederick Douglass and Abe Lincoln had their birthdays within that one week period.

Black History Month, which was 1st celebrated at Kent State University, was celebrated with the intention of highlighting the beauty of Black history and culture, as something distinct from American history and culture. Essentially, it took the idea of Negro History week and turned it upside down, creating a one month celebration of Blackness with a focus on the continuity between African American history and culture and that of our brothers and sisters from Africa and beyond.

Contrary to popular belief there was no conspiracy to celebrate Black History Month during the shortest month of the year. We decided to celebrate Black History Month in February, in honor of the freedom fighter, Frederick Douglass and the historian, Carter G. Woodson. Of course, President Lincoln’s birthday still falls right in the middle of Black History Month, but little mention is made of him or his “Emancipation Proclamation.” That’s probably the biggest difference between Negro History Week celebrations of the past and present day Black History Month celebrations, instead there’s been an attempt to replace Old Abe with Martin Luther King, as the new standard bearer for liberal Whites.

The Legacy of Dr. Crosby

Dr. Edward W. Crosby, “Father of Black History Month”

Most of us see homeless people on the street and either feel bad for them or shun them, but unless you’ve been in a situation where you had to beg for something it’s hard to imagine how hard it is for someone to have to ask for help. I was forced to do just that one evening in Westwood, CA. I had no money or bus pass and was forced to have to beg for bus fare. Writing this blog and admitting that we fell short of an important goal, to commemorate the passing of a figure who was larger than life, is hard to do.

Today is the first anniversary of Dr. Crosby’s graduation into the land of the ancestors. I had hoped that we could have a proper celebration for the Father of Black History Month, next week, but circumstances have forced me to have to focus on the living, more than the dearly departed.

Dr. Crosby’s widow took ill on November 30, one day after her 89th B-Earth Day, the 1st she’s celebrated in the absence of her husband of 65 years. More than 2 months later Mrs. Crosby is still undergoing the process of recovering from a hard fought battle with COVID and the ravages of her sick bed. As her primary caretaker I’ve had to focus my full attention on her recovery and maintenance of the Crosby homestead.

Mom doesn’t believe in doctors and neither do I, but we’ve had to interact with our share of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals as mom fights to return to her former state of health and activity.

Last year we set out to plan a conference style memorial in honor of Dr. Crosby in honor of the legacy he left us. Anyone who knows the Crosbys knows that reaching out and helping others is something we’ve always done with no strings attached. As we planned to honor Dr. Crosby we began to look at how we could not only preserve the Crosby legacy, but how we could help others do likewise. In part, the event that is now postponed indefinitely, was planned as a benefit to help establish the Crosby Archives as NE Ohio’s best resource for the study of local Black History.

Black History has been under attack since the late 60’s when community activists and Black student organizations demanded Black Studies be taught in every educational institution in America, from K through college.

Dr. Crosby began his career as an educator teaching German & Spanish in predominantly White institutions, but it was not long before he heard the call from the Black community for Black Education. His career in Black Education began and ended in Akron, Ohio. He got his feet wet as an educational coordinator with Akron’s fledgling Community Action Council and ended his career as the founder of, Ida B. Wells Community School, Akron’s 1st African centered charter school.

Over a career spanning 30 years Dr. Crosby participated in founding ground breaking educational programs in East St. Louis, Ill; Kent, Ohio; Seattle, Washington and Akron, Ohio. In each instance the majority of the students were Black inner city youth from the surrounding communities. He pioneered the use of innovative educational materials and delivery systems via closed circuit TV, the Public Broadcasting System and self-published curriculum materials.

Funnily, his most notable accomplishment was the establishment of Black History Month as a worldwide phenomenon reaching well beyond the boundaries of Kent State University, where the 1st Black History Month was celebrated in 1970.

Immediately following the passing of Frederick Douglass his house was turned into a “living museum and monument” enshrining his legacy. Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s Washington, D.C. home has also been preserved as a tribute to his lasting legacy, as the Father of Negro History and Negro History Week. In both cases their homes were preserved, without the assistance of government grants. Their homes were preserved with private donations from individuals just like you and me.

In the case of the Crosby Archives we are seeking to not only preserve his legacy, but also the legacy of members of the Black community all throughout NE Ohio, on and off the Internet. In other words, we want to continue to expand on the legacy of Dr. Crosby by preserving as many documents, photos, works of art, etc., as possible from members of the Black community whose materials would otherwise be tossed in city dumps throughout NE Ohio.

We’re asking everyone in our social networks to begin making donations to the Crosby Archives on FaceBook, via the U.S. mail or PayPal. We can’t do this on our own, we’re going to need your help. We’ve heard from many people who say they would like to help. Here’s one way you can help us preserve and expand on the Crosby legacy.

The Black Panther Party of Self-Defense, 10 Point Program

We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our black community.

  1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our black community.


We believe that Black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny.

  1. We want full employment for our people.

We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the White American businessmen will not give full employment, then the means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.

  1. We want an end to the robbery by the capitalists of our black community.


We believe that this racist government has robbed us, and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules were promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for the genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered six million Jews. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over fifty million Black people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make.

  1. We want decent housing fit for the shelter of human beings.

We believe that if the White Landlords will not give decent housing to our Black community, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our community, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for its people.

  1. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent american society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.

We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.

  1. We want all black men to be exempt from military service.

We believe that Black people should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like Black people, are being victimized by the White racist government of America. We will protect ourselves from the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by whatever means necessary.

  1. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people.

We believe we can end police brutality in our Black community by organizing Black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our Black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all Black people should arm themselves for self- defense.

  1. We want freedom for all black men.


Held In Federal, State, County And City Prisons And Jails.
We believe that all Black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because they have not received a fair and impartial trial.

  1. We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in
    court by a jury of their peer group or people from their black
    communities, as defined by the constitution of the United States.


We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that Black people will receive fair trials. The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the Black community from which the Black defendant came. We have been, and are being, tried by all-White juries that have no understanding of the “average reasoning man” of the Black community.

  1. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect of the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

Written: October 15, 1966

Source: War Against the Panthers, by Huey P. Newton, 1980

Transcription/Markup & corrections: MIM/Brian Baggins Online Version: Marxist History Archive (marxists.org) 2001

The Father of Black History Month Leaves A Living Legacy!

For most of us Black History Month is like air, it seems like it’s always been around, but where did it come from and how did it start?

The year was 1969 and change was in the air. In November of 1968 Black students, led by the leaders of Kent State’s newest activist organization, the Black United Students. Hundreds of Black students packed their bags and headed for parts unknown, for many of them were too far from home to return in the middle of the quarter.

The Black United Students are no typical student organization, they are student advocates. After protesting the presence of Oakland, CA police recruiters a number of students were deemed undesirables and either suspended or expelled. The walkout was a show of solidarity with their fellow student protesters. The students had tried to negotiate with the university administrators, to no avail.

The walkout was successful. The students were reinstated and the university agreed to meet the demands of the students to create a Black Cultural Center, Office of Minority Affairs, a Black Studies Department and give the, so-called undesirable students, amnesty. It was this series of events that brought Kent alumnus Dr. Edward W. Crosby back to his alma mater to create the Institute for African American Affairs (IAAA). The first order of business was to develop a curriculum with no money for faculty or staff.

This is where things got kind of tricky. Without enough money in the budget to do anything but act as a grand registrar for other departments Dr. Crosby began looking at the resources available to him on the campus. TV 2 Kent State’s closed circuit TV network debuted in October of 1968. With their fledgling television studio and capability of hosting a live studio audience Dr. Crosby saw an opportunity. He had become familiar with the power of TV broadcasting & recording from his tenure in East St. Louis, where he took unlikely college candidates and prepared them for matriculation from a liberal arts college. At Kent department chairs were encouraged to develop tele-courses. Dr. Crosby quickly saw a way he could turn this untapped potential into relevant educational content. By using TV2, to transmit information across campus and also record these lectures and cultural presentations for later use in the Institute’s 1st course, “Towards a Black Cosmology and Aesthetic,” he could turn water to wine.

At a Malcolm X Day celebration in February of 1969 Nelson Stevens, a graduate student in the art department, talked to Dean Wilson about producing a month-long Black History Month program for February of 1970. Dean Wilson liked the idea so much he added it to Kent State’s University calendar. Now, the only question was who would be invited as guest artists, lecturers, etc.

As an experienced educational administrator, Dr. Crosby was used to being in situations that required him to use creative financing, in order to achieve his goals. As he put it, “he could do more with a nickel, than a monkey could do with a peanut.” He came up with the idea of using funds from Black United Students for their cultural/educational programs to bring some of his friends and associates to Kent, where many of their lectures and presentations could be recorded for posterity. It was a match made in heaven. BUS needed programming for the Kuumba House while IAAA needed the recordings as curriculum materials for their fledgling Institute.

That first Black History Month program was all the way live, with Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks; Jimmy Garrett, co-founder of the 1st Black Student Union in the USA; “Apostle of Africulture,” Babatunde Olatunji & the Drums of Passion; nationally renowned poets Eugene Redmond & Quincy Troupe, as well as other notables from the fields of psychology, sociology, art, etc. on campus, as part of the festivities.

This is how the 1st Black History Month program was created. From it’s inauspicious beginnings here in Kent, Ohio to the global phenomenon that it is today, Black History Month represents just one small part of the living legacy of Dr. Edward W. Crosby. His focus, 1st & foremost, to paraphrase his best friend Don Henderson, was “to produce millions of Black college graduates,” not by doing ground breaking research or writing hundreds of books, but by counseling, nurturing, guiding and advocating for each and every student that crossed the threshold of IAAA’s offices at Kent. In the end it is those students that make up his living legacy. Students who, oftentimes, would have been left by the side of the road, if not for his constant urging, cajoling and advocacy.

Over the past 4 months, since he celebrated his 88th birthday, it has become apparent that if not for Dr. Crosby many of today’s Black administrators, from Claude Steele, former Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at UC Berkeley, to Larry Simpson, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and provost at Berklee College of Music would not be who they are, were it not for the influence, counseling and mentorship of Dr. Crosby. These 2 examples are not even representative of the tip of this iceberg. I’ve interviewed over 60 people that knew him well, including former students, friends, family members and business associates and have only scratched the surface, for his influence runs deep and wide from the world of entertainment to the world of business. From City Hall to Southside Mall, from pillar to post and stoop to stoop, Dr. Crosby made his mark.

He could have been an “armchair revolutionary” or a TV pundit, as so many with his type of credentials are wont to be, in today’s world, but for the influence of his mother, who urged him to work for Black people and let the chips fall where they may. Yes, he “made his money, but money did not make him,” as he liked to put it. He made sure the students were at the center of the learning process, but more importantly he made sure they were the focus of all of his efforts, on the campuses of Kent State, the University of Washington, Tuskegee Institute, Hiram College, the University of Kansas, the Experiment in Higher Education @ Southern Illinois University and one of Ohio’s 1st charter schools, Ida B. Wells Community Academy. He focused on the needs of the student, first and foremost.

While his accomplishments in the field of education were notable, he still had time for family, remained close to his parents and his siblings, attended family reunions and used his publishing skills to create a family newsletter and a genealogical scroll.

This brings up an interesting point. EWC (Eternal Work Creator), as he was sometimes called, was also known as an “educational entrepreneur.” I’m sure whoever said that meant it in a negative way, but I’m also just as sure that he would have taken that on as an additional title. He was an expert at promoting the programs sponsored by IAAA, the Department of Pan-African Studies, as it was later called and the Center of Pan-African Culture. He was also an innovator, as was noted earlier, he was an early adopter of new technology, including computers. In fact, his secretary Gladys Bozeman was the first secretary on Kent’s campus to use a desktop computer as part of her job description. The department also established the first desktop computer lab, at the request of Janet Stadulis, an English teacher attached to the department.

We would be remiss if we overlooked the creation of the African Community Theater. It was originally established as the Black Drama Workshop, by Sandy Sheffey. With nothing but their bodies and a small room in the cultural center to work with, the drama workshop began as an adjunct of America’s oldest Black theater company, Karamu House. The workshop had a number of directors over the years and finally became a full fledged theater under the direction of a graduate student in the department, Fran Dorsey. Under his direction the theater became a semi-professional organization producing a number of professional actors and actresses.

The last institution Crosby established was an outgrowth of a project his oldest son Kofi was involved in at Kent, the Progressive Education Community School (PECS). The establishment of Ida B. Wells Community Academy (IBWCA), one of Ohio’s 1st charter schools, was his most significant involvement with elementary/secondary school education. He literally carried it for 10 years, nurturing it and making sure it was solvent at all costs. In the end the school closed after 10 years of operation, due to a negative political climate that evolved over time, which has cast all charter schools in a bad light.

In speaking with everyone who knew him, without fail, the influence and support of Shirley Crosby, his wife of 65 years and childhood sweetheart is always mentioned. And, while Shirley and Ed became known as community mothers and fathers to students from far flung regions of the planet, including a number of African countries, the Caribbean and every state in the U.S., they still had time to raise 3 boys, E. Michael Crosby, Darryl M.L. Crosby and E. Malcolm Crosby, who continues to add to their legacy through the works of their offspring.

Dr. Crosby passed from this world as the sun set on Kent, Ohio the evening of February 10th, 2021. He died as he lived, standing on his feet, fighting for every breath of life he could get. Never one to back down from a fight, we can rest assured he’s continuing to fight the good fight alongside the angels Gabriel and Michael.

The Blakfacts Challenge 2020

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Black History Month we decided to challenge the youth to learn the history of Ohio’s Black athletes. Everyone is welcome to participate in the “Blakfacts Challenge 2020,” but we’re only awarding prizes to young people, between the ages of 8 and 18. Select the link to be taken directly to the Blakfacts Challenge page.

The Challenge is a series of 29 questions about the lives, loves and careers of a few of Ohio’s Black athletes. Our goal is simple. We want to encourage young people to not only shoot for the stars, we want them to know who the stars are, that walk amongst us. This challenge features Black athletes from Ohio, with a focus on Akron.

This Challenge is the result of 10 years of intensive historical research and study. Participants will learn about the athletes, the times they lived in and how they turned “athletic success into success in life.” 

Anyone who wants to take The Challenge should feel free to do so. Use the link below to access the online quiz. The answers to all the questions will be posted on our website and on Youtube, on a daily basis. Make sure to subscribe to this website and the Blakfacts Youtube Channel for regular updates. All qualified entrants who make a score of 80 or better will be entered in the drawing to be Youtube livestreamed on March 9th, 2020. 

Winners of the drawing will receive cash and prizes. First prize winners will receive $20, second place will receive $10 and third place will receive $5. All three winners will also receive a book and pack of collectible trading cards from our “Ohio’s Black Athletes” series.

All prizes will be delivered via the U.S. mail.

Wakanda Forever!

Nearly one year later and we’re still feeling the aftershocks from Wakanda. The Black Panther was just one in a series of movies depicting Black people in a variety of roles not seen since the era of Blaxploitation. This time around the roles are better, as is the acting and the CGI.

BIRTH OF A NATION - MIGHTIEST SPECTACLE EVER PRODUCED

From the very beginnings of the film industry Black people have been featured in some of the most popular movies, even if they were really White folks in blackface. The movie that has defined what a feature film should be was  D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation.” [1915] The roles that “Black people” played in that film were not just subservient, they were downright scandalous, as the charcoal faced actors portrayed Black congressmen who were shiftless, lazy and lecherous. They had a particular lust for White women, which was a major them of the movie.

Eventually, Black folks were able to play the roles of the Tarzan natives, etc., but never a leading role or the role of the primary protagonist. “Gone with the Wind,” basically a remake of “The Birth of a Nation,” featured Hattie McDaniel as a Black Mammy character, who actually won an Oscar for her role, but again it was strictly in a supporting role.

During the era of Paul Robeson, arguably the world’s greatest singer, he did play roles in a number of feature films, but in some cases the roles were so bad that he had to hide during the premiere of the film, from sheer embarrassment. From that point on he decided he had to have the last say on the final cut, in order to avoid future embarrassing situations. His best movie was “Jericho.” [1937] That movie did not win him an Oscar, nor did he become famous for it. He was much more famous for his stage roles in “The Emperor Jones” and “Othello,” neither of which did much to dispel the myth of the lazy, ignorant Negroes portrayed in those early blockbusters, like “The Birth of a Nation.” During the time he was playing roles on the big screen, he was considered to be the first “successful” Black male actor. Unfortunately, he made his money playing the role of Stepin Fetchit, a lazy, shiftless, no account nigger.

SIDNEY POITIERAfter going to Europe to fight the Nazis and their fascist axis of evil, the attitudes of Colored people about their portrayal on the stage and screen changed, as well as their attitude towards the segregationist policies in place all over the South. This was the beginning of a series of ground breaking movies featuring Sidney Poitier. During his era, from all indications, an unwritten rule was in place, much like in sports, that there could only be 1 male Negro star at a time. Other Negroes whose careers began to flourish during that time included Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Dorothy Dandridge and Eartha Kitt.

By the time the 60’s rolled around Black folks were ready for something different, but the doors remained locked, unless you were ready to be a pimp, ho, mammy, maid, chauffeur, criminal or, even worse, a rapist. At the height of the 60’s, from 1968, on into the early 70’s, Blaxploitation was the rule. So, real Black people appeared on the screen, but typically as caricatures of themselves. Examples include “Superfly,” a movie about a pimp trying to get out of the game; Shaft, a Black detective, superhero type, etc. There were also a number of movies starring Black women, typically with names like Chocolate, Candy, Cleopatra Jones, etc., always strong, domineering, kickass women.

SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT - SPIKE LEE

It wasn’t until Spike Lee came along and independently produced his movie “She’s Gotta Have It,” that realistic roles started to become the norm. [1986] Before that the roles Black people played were comical, to say the least. We could be sounding boards for the White actors or comic relief, in most cases, but to play a fully developed character exhibiting all the exigencies of a typical human being, I don’t think so. Robert Townsend was right behind him with “The Hollywood Shuffle.” [1987] Their films were not enough to change Hollywood on their own, but they were groundbreaking, in much the same way as “The Black Panther” is today.

Other African American filmmakers used their films as a template and began producing independent films, as well. John Singleton set the tone in the 90’s when he came out with “Boys in the Hood.” [1991] With each success, limited as they were by finances and the ability to distribute their films the way major studios do, they had an impact on the major studios, who now have deals with a number of Black directors and actor/directors. Over the period of the last 30 years the pace has increased from 1 or 2/year to the point where you really need to break out a score card, just to keep up.

Films with Black stars are becoming commonplace to the point where it seems a Black star is a prerequisite to success. Comedy shows and rap concerts have become places for many Black actors to showcase their skills.

SAY IT LOUD - I'M BLACK & I'M PROUD

“The Black Panther” is paving a new path to success for films with all Black casts that are not necessarily stars. Two of the main stars in “The Black Panther” are veteran actors, but definitely do not have the drawing power of a Denzel, Ice Cube or even Terrence Blanchard. What they did have was a good story.

Historically accurate, it was not. Culturally varied, definitely. Impactful, very. I’ve been surprised at the effect it’s had on the youth. They’ve gone from denigrating Africa and Africans to revering them, to a certain extent. The question now, is how do we keep this going and capitalize on their initial excitement?

Wakanda Forever!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Untold Story of Black History Month

The true origins of Black History Month have been shrouded in mystery long enough. Painstaking research has revealed “Negro History Week” and Black History Month are about the same as a Cadillac and a Ford. On February 15th, 2020 Kent State University will officially recognize the role Kent State’s Black students, faculty and staff played in establishing Black History Month as an annual nationally recognized event. The event will take place in Cartwright Hall from 3-6 pm and will feature Dean E. Timothy Moore, emeritus professor and Dr. Silas Ashley; the current Director of the Department of Pan-African Studies, Dr. Amoaba Gooden and Kent State’s 13th President, Dr. Todd Diacon.

BIRTH OF A NATION - FIRST TIME IN SOUND“Negro History Week” was founded 10 years after the premiere of “The Birth of a Nation” (AKA “The Clansman”). “Birth of a Nation” was considered to be an accurate representation of Negro History, even though many of the “Negroes” were actors in blackface, portraying stereotypically lazy, wicked Negroes.

Annual screenings of “The Birth of a Nation” and minstrel shows, with performers in blackface were the norm at schools across the country, including Kent. Ironically, the last performance of blackface minstrelsy was on February 1st, 1985 in E. Stump Theatre and produced by Kent’s School of Theatre. Black veterans interested in coming to Kent could apply for accommodations in the dorms, but were always denied. In fact, housing anywhere outside Kent’s fledgling ghetto, on the Southend was impossible. The Robinhood, a popular spot across the street from Kent’s main gate, had a “no Negro rule.” Even Oscar Ritchie, the only Negro professor at Kent, had to live in Canton, Ohio. Things were so bad that Dr. Ritchie engaged in civil protests over the citywide policy.

Before he left this mortal realm Dr. Milton Wilson was hired as an assistant professor in psychology. From 1964 to 1968 Milt Wilson and Dr. Oscar Ritchie were the only Black faculty members, on an otherwise segregated campus.

Dr. Wilson was fast tracked to a position as Dean of Human Relations, following the Black Student Walkout of 1968. He was a dean “without portfolio”, for there was no department of Human Relations. It appears that his real task was to keep the natives at bay and act as their spokesperson. 

The students had a set of demands, which included a Black Cultural Center and a Black Studies Department. The administration did not want to accede to either demand, so they looked for ways to stall for time.

DR CROSBY & DR WILSON & NAME TAG

When they hired Dr. Edward W. Crosby to create a Black Studies Department they thought they had someone they could easily manipulate, far from it. Dr. Crosby decided to work with the students in helping them achieve their goals. The first Black History Month celebration came about as a result of this clash of ideologies and cultures. Black students like Dwayne White, Erwind Blount, Carl Gregory and others worked in tandem with Dr. Crosby to create  three institutions, which included a Black Studies Department, Black Cultural Center and Black History Month. 

INVOLVEMENT 2 YEARS LATER COVERIn Dean Wilson’s Involvement 2/Years Later he mentions an aha moment he had when talking to graduate student Nelson Stevens at a “Negro History Week” celebration, in 1969. However, there’s no record of such an event occurring, except in 1955. However, both of them were present for Malcolm X Day on February 25th, 1969. Could this be where Dean Wilson’s aha moment occurred? 

On February 2nd, 1970 the first celebration of Black History for an entire month anywhere took place, in Kent, Ohio. The event was sponsored by the Institute for African American Affairs, Black United Students and the Center for Human Relations. 

“Negro History Week” was typically celebrated in the segregated schools of the south. Northern schools, segregated or not, did not celebrate “Negro History Week.” There’s nothing on record about riots in schools over “Negro History Week,” ostensibly because they were relegated to the segregated schools of the south. 

The historical record gives us a very different picture when it comes to Black History Month. There were a number of issues with Black History Month. The word Black, in the late 60’s was considered to be radical. To call oneself Black or demand others describe you that way were fighting words. Many did not like being called Black, while others didn’t like having to call Negroes Black. Even though the Chicago Style Manual clearly leaves open the option of using Black with a capital “b,” most editors continue to leave it uncapitalized. 

BLACK WATCH BULLETIN BOARD
Black Watch bulletin board in the Center of Pan-African Culture from the 1970’s

Secondly, there was an issue with bringing all this “unauthorized” and therefore “fake” history into a setting with Whites who typically denied the facts, even when there was a ton of evidence contradicting the accepted history of many scientific inventions, etc. 

Last, but not least is the issue of not just having to deal with this type of activity for 1 day/year, but for an entire month. Everyone knows what happens if you “give a mouse a cookie.” Imagine what would happen if you “gave a Negro a month,” Black History might just become real history.

What’s Behind Our Logo?

We picked our logo because of the direct relationship between the Amasunzu hairstyle and the Khepresh crown of the Egyptians. In our historical research we’ve been able to find East African hairstyles that match each of the crowns of the pharaohs. The Amasunzu, in particular is one of the most distinctive and requires the typical helicoid hair that is specific to African people. Check out the video below for a detailed history of the Amasunzu in Rwanda, one of a number of countries where the hairstyle is still being worn.

Amasunzu Is the Retro-Future of Hair _

Hairstyles in traditional societies are more than a personal choice, they are symbols of status and position in society. The Amasunzu had been banned during colonial times, for just this reason. The goal of banning it was to replace the social hierarchy already in place for a colonial hierarchy.

Decades later the Amasunzu is having a resurgence, as a way of expressing national pride. We chose an image comparing a man wearing the Amasunzu with an image of one of the pharaohs of Egypt’s 18th dynasty to show that there was and still is a connection between the ancient Egyptians and the peoples of Central Africa. This connection has been denied

by many European scholars over the years and was but another way to minimize the importance of African traditional cultures, while claiming a connection to one of Africa’s most advanced civilizations.   

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Blakfacts is about the business of revealing these lost connections and accomplishments of African peoples around the world. We hope that all who visit our website will get something positive from our posts, videos, blogs and the educational products we sell here.

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Wherever We are, Africa is There

AFRICA OHIO MARKER 6-21I’ve been saying this for years. Not only do I say it, I believe it. Truthfully, I’ve only been to Africa once, for six weeks, 50 years ago. However, that trip changed my life, forever. The things we did and saw have stuck with me, like glue.

Before I went, my idea of Africa was straight out of Hollywood. No one had really talked to me about Africa, even though I do remember having met some when I was still in elementary school, but I never asked them anything about where they were from, or what it was like. I wasn’t that interested, at 8 years old.

When my parents first told me we were going, the first thing on my mind was what would I do for 6 weeks, without a TV to watch. Soon after we arrived I found TV and Coca Cola had reached Africa before we did, so that was not a problem. I also realized there where no African shows, just a lot of American reruns, like “I Love Lucy.” I decided it was stupid to lock myself in a room watching reruns I’d already seen, with a whole new world right outside my window. The one thing I recall really had an impact was when we’d meet very dark skinned Africans and they would ask us what part of Africa we were from? To them it was as obvious as the noses on our faces that we were from Africa, just not from around there.

POLLY JACKSON - UNDERGROUND RAILROAD CONDUCTOROver the last 50 years, since I returned from Africa, I’ve tried to learn as much about Africa as I could, from the music, literature and politics to the languages, religion and culture. I’ve met Africans from nearly every part of Africa and seen many TV shows and  movies about Africa. The more I’ve learned, the more I’ve realized how much those of us born outside of the African continent are similar to those who were born in The Motherland.

Well, today I was talking with my mother and she explained how she discovered Africa, Ohio. I’d heard of Africatowns before in Alabama and attempts to recognize Little Africas in L.A. and Detroit. I’m also keenly aware of Black towns all over the country, including California’s Allensworth and a number of Black towns in the Midwest, as well. Africatown, Ohio was not on my list, however. Apparently, there’s been an attempt to wipe the town and the memory of it off of the map. Seeing as how I just heard of it, I can’t say how significant her discovery is, but it does appear to have some historical significance.

People like Aunt Polly Jackson lived there. From what I can tell it appears that she moved there before slavery ended and that she fought off an attempt to recapture her with a blade. The 1 photo I’ve found of her, so far, shows her with a very serious, “I wish you would” look on her face, much like the photos of Harriet Tubman in her old age.

So, for those who think Africa is just too far away to visit, I say, “why not take a trip to Africa, Ohio,” or one of the many other African villages in the USA? If you come to our house you’ll see, wherever we are Africa is there, in spirit and in fact.