Every day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with Phillys7thWard.org and Citizen Ed, will highlight a Black Educator Hall of Famer. But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History Month…February is just the Blackest.
Today, our featured Black Educator Hall of Fame Member is Edgar Toppin.
This Black History Month, each day, we’ll highlight a Black History Hero for our Hall of Fame, specifically highlighting heroes who were educators.
Edgar Allen Toppin Sr. was born January 22, 1928 in New York City. A child of Harlem, Toppin was a second of six children born to Maude Catherine Joel and Leopold Toppin; who chose to name their son after the poet Edgar Allen Poe.
Toppin’s love of learning began early; sitting on the roof of his apartment building on 114th Street near Seventh Avenue in Harlem and read everything from Civil War histories to Dr. Doolittle. At 16 years old, Toppin attended New York City College. Upon proving his aptitude, he received a scholarship to attend Howard University, where he was mentored by legendary educator and historian John Hope Franklin.
Toppin received both his bachelor and master degree in history from Howard. Soon after, he obtained his Ph.D. in history at Northwestern University.
Dr. Toppin entered the teaching profession as a university professor at Virginia State University, a Historically Black College and/or University, where he would remain as faculty for over 40 years. His years of research and producing ten books made him a renowned and respected for his knowledge of Black History. His interest areas were the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Dr. Toppin is most known for his work in creating “Americans from Africa,” a groundbreaking 30-lesson television series that aired on American public broadcast stations in the 1960s. The series served as the foundation for school districts as they created Black studies courses to meet the demands of student protestors.
Dr. Toppin also wrote the 15-part “Blacks in America” article series, running in the Christian Science Monitor in 1969.
In addition to teaching, Dr. Toppin was affiliated with the Association for the Study of African American (Negro) Life and History (ASALH), where he served as President. Under Dr. Toppin’s leadership, ASALH facilitated Negro History Week formally becoming Black History Month. Dr. Toppin partnered with the White House and President Ford for Black History Month to be. However, it must be said that Black educators and students expanded Negro History Week to a month-long celebration informally—influencing the move of Dr. Toppin and ASALH.
Dr. Toppin died in 2004 at the age of 76. He is quoted saying of his life, “I hope people would remember me for my humaneness, for being kindly to both colleagues, staff and students…For seeing the worth and potential in each person, no matter who it is or their background.”
Edgar Toppin; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.
For more information on Edgar Toppin, visit the following site.