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Arvarh E. Strickland, 1930-2013: An Historian’s Life

In the article that follows, Richard S. Kirkendall, the Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor Emeritus of American History at the University of Washington, Seattle, pays tribute to fellow historian Arvarh E. Strickland.  Kirkendall was chairman of the History Department of the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1969 when Strickland was hired.  He would like to think of himself as the Branch Rickey of the Strickland story, but he cannot make that claim for the whole department participated in the decision.  His tribute to Professor Strickland appears below.

On October 19, 2007, the University of Missouri-Columbia honored a professor by naming the General Classroom Building the Arvarh E. Strickland Hall.  The event recognized Strickland’s large historical significance.  The first African American appointed to that faculty, he is its Jackie Robinson.  Like Robinson, he proved to be a person of strong character as well as large talents.

Joining the Missouri faculty in 1969, Strickland brought to the job diverse experiences in American life.  A native of racially segregated Mississippi, he was born in Hattiesburg on July 6, 1930 and raised mainly by a strong mother and her strong parents.  His father’s alcoholism destroyed the marriage, and his jobs as a plasterer often took him away from the city, but the boy had periodic contact with him and knew other Strickland relatives.

Three black institutions, a Methodist Church, a school, and a college, Tougaloo, near Jackson, Mississippi, also contributed to Arvarh’s early development.  His teachers in Tougaloo’s racially integrated faculty included August Meier, a young Euro-American who would later achieve distinction in the field of African American history. 

After graduating from Tougaloo in 1951, Arvarh served for several years as a teacher, a principal, and a supervisor in the segregated Mississippi school system and for another year as a history instructor at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute.  During this period, he also earned a master’s degree from the University of

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