To the University community:
Every February, Black History Month celebrates the immense cultural heritage, achievements, and tribulations that constitute an indelible part of our nation’s history. The Black experience is embedded in the collective fabric of the American story.
Carter G. Woodson, one of the most important educators and public intellectuals of the American 20th century, initiated the celebration of Negro History Week in 1926, which later became Black History Month in 1970. It was first proposed and celebrated at Kent State University. Born in Virginia, Woodson, the second African American to achieve a doctorate (1912) from Harvard University, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915, stimulating what Jarvis Givens describes as “fugitive pedagogy.” On a conceptual level:
Woodson developed language to name how school curriculum cultivated antiblackness and racism as a social competence among students…Woodson named race as operative in knowledge and the American Curriculum’s system of representation, thus pulling it into the open and making it accountable to critique. (Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching, Harvard University Press, 2021, 18).
Woodson’s iconic book, The Mis-education of the Negro, propelled his curricular perspective that the American School system “hinged on the belief that the Negro was ‘a negligible factor in the thought of the world.’”
Carrying forward the spirit of “fugitive pedagogy,” the experiences of Suzanne Brooks and Charles Fuller, two exemplary African American La Salle alumni, constitute historical markers for key aspects of Black history. Here, we spotlight two of our own who have made tremendous contributions to the literary and performing arts.
Suzanne Pope Brooks, ’75
Brooks is a poet, vocalist, educator, entrepreneur, and community activist. She is author of four books including Ins and Outs: Poems and Stories from the 70s and Escape Is Not An Option: Poems, Stories, and an Essay of the 1980s–1990s. She leads The Jazz Generation, an education and performance initiative that creates opportunities for children and adults.
A Philadelphia police officer from 1965–1972, she graduated from La Salle College in 1975, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Education. She was a recipient of the John McShain Award, given to a senior for both scholastic excellence and service to the College. In addition, she was awarded the coveted Danforth Foundation Graduate Fellowship and published her first story, “Light Through the Ivy.” Giving homage to two La Salle faculty members in the introduction to Ins and Outs, she proudly stated: Professors Richard Lautz “encouraged and provided opportunities for readings of my poems in workshops around the city of Philadelphia,” and Claude Koch “taught me the rigors of the craft and the value of tough and honest criticism. Above all, I am haunted by his single most repeated word—‘revise.’”
Learn more about Brooks by reading “Former Policewoman ends 13-year Quest for Degree with Coveted Danforth Fellowship” via La Salle’s Digital Commons.
Charles H. Fuller, Jr., HON ’82
A man of letters, Fuller is a playwright, novelist, and screenwriter. Writing his first play in 1968, “The Village: A Party,” he won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Soldier’s Play. In 1984, it was produced as a film titled A Soldier’s Story. In January 2020, Fuller’s play made its Broadway debut. However, after 58 performances, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all Broadway theatres. Despite its run of less than two months, the production received a Tony Award nomination (and won) for Best Revival of a Play. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1959–1962, he entered La Salle College’s Evening Division (1965–1967) as an undergraduate. In July 1982, La Salle honored Fuller with an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. Brother President Patrick Ellis, FSC, commented,
“In honoring Charles Fuller, the playwright, La Salle is but one voice in a chorus of praise. But in honoring Charles Fuller the man, who grew up in the Catholic schools of Philadelphia, we have reasons for feeling a special pride and kinship. Not only have you practiced the objectives of this college in providing the ‘informed service and progressive leadership’ we envision in our college catalog, but you have also grown in maturity in all human relationships.” (La Salle Magazine, Spring 1983, 12)
Learn more about Fuller by reading “The Path to the Pulitzer Prize” via La Salle’s Digital Commons.
Celebrating Black History Month in Philadelphia
Philadelphia is brimming with opportunities to celebrate Black history and culture. Review a list of events happening this month in Philadelphia that provide moments to encounter and reflect on enduring aspects of the Black experience—that is to say, the American experience.I also encourage you to review the event listing for the 2022 Black History Month Festival, organized by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
Consider participating in or attending these Black History Month events available through the Free Library of Philadelphia:
Ernest J. Miller, FSC, D.Min., M.A. ’95
Vice President of Mission, Diversity, and Inclusion