Dr. Fred Hammond, III, Department of Educational Sciences, Foundations & Research
Black History Month is a joyous celebration entangled by a rich History of triumph through hardship, achievement in the face of adversity and pride, on the backs of an unwavering ancestry led by kings & queens. One thing I have come to realize and passionately believe, there is no history without Black History. From the beginning of the establishment of the colonies to the great country in which we live today, significant advancements have consistently been contributed, recognized or not, by the African American experience. If we do not know where we have been, we have no idea where we are headed and if we as Americans do not learn from our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them.
Anthony Johnson arrived on the English ship, White Lion, in 1619. He became a successful headright settler and claimed 250 acres. Anthony prospered and bought more land, livestock, and owned slaves. One of his slaves, John Casor, sued Johnson to gain his freedom, but Johnson won the court case on March 8, 1655, to keep Casor as his slave. This case was the first legal sanction of slavery in the colonies. More than 12 million Africans were captured and sent to the Caribbean and the American colonies from the Slave Coast of Africa. Slaves were brought to the colonies with the Triangular Slave Trade from 1660 to 1808.
Black people arrived in Oklahoma long before the prospect of statehood. The first to settle in the area were enslaved by Native American tribes in the Deep South, and they made the journey in the 1830s as hunters, nurses and cooks during the brutal forced exodus known as the Trail of Tears.
Tullahassee is one of more than fifty All-Black towns of Oklahoma and one of thirteen still existing. The roots of the community were planted in 1850 when the Creek Nation opened a school.
The 1889 Land Run primarily attracted white settlers, and none of the few African Americans that took part settled directly inside the city limits of Edmond. The Gower and Estes families both homesteaded 160 acres near Edmond in 1889. Both families settled in areas that would eventually become part of Edmond, but no African Americans settled inside the immediate city limits of Edmond until 1891, where the population slowly began to grow.
UCO was founded in 1890 as the Territorial Normal School. 1904 – Territorial Normal became Central State Normal School. Statehood was still three years away. 1939 – The state legislature passed a law renaming the institution. The new Central State College was authorized to grant degrees without teaching certificates. May 18, 1990 – During the Edmond university’s Centennial Year, legislation was passed changing the name to the University of Central Oklahoma.
Notable African American Achievements in American Education.
- 1876 First African American to earn a doctorate degree from an American university: Edward Alexander Bouchet (Yale College Ph.D., physics; also first African American to graduate from Yale, 1874).
- 1895 First African American to earn a doctorate degree (Ph.D.) from Harvard University: W.E.B. Du Bois.
- Paul Lehman, Ph.D., was the first African American professor at UCO when he was hired in 1976. He enjoyed a 30-year career as an English professor at the university, also serving as dean of the Graduate College.
When asked, what does Black History Month mean to me, it is my humble belief that this month is a time for reflection, in honoring those who made it possible for me to continue the “good fight.” As one of only four African American professors in my college; out of 120, and the only African American in my department, it is a time of rededication to the mission of advancement of unquestionable equality, of people of color. It is a reminder that no matter how far we have come, we have that much further to go in the struggle of equality. Mediocrity, apathy and complacency can no longer be acceptable. The journey has not yet been fulfilled. The discussions, and actions of African Americans must be purposeful and driven by the unyielding labor of our ancestors, not just in February, but all year long, in every field of human endeavor!