Edward Crosby | Department of Pan-African Studies | Kent State University

Edward Crosby

Edward Crosby

It's a long way from the halls of the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center on E. 22nd and Cedar Avenue to the hallowed halls of academia at Kent State University, but Dr. Edward W. Crosby made that journey -- and caused some changes to be made along the way. My story began on Cleveland's Eastside, on Short Scovill near 64th Street. From there my family moved to 64th and Outhwaite, across from Dycke Elementary School, but before long my family moved into the projects on 42nd and Scovill Avenue. And then we moved finally to Mt. Pleasant when I was about 13-years-old.

My parents were great believers in education so I, along with four of my five brothers and my sister, attended St. Edward's Catholic School on Woodland Avenue at 69th Street.. It was at St. Ed's that I began to have an appreciation for learning, which was why my mother sent us there in the first place. She just didn't feel we would learn and get the discipline we needed in public school. In those days the financial burden of sending five children to Catholic school wasn't too great since it only cost twenty-five cents a semester if they were a Catholic. "Of course my brothers, sister, and I all became Catholics." Before then, as a family, church attendance wasn't a part of our worldview.

As my mother had wished, I was a straight A student at St. Edwards. St. Edwards, for male students, went only to the eighth grade and this attitude towards academic achievement did not follow me into Alexander Hamilton Junior High School. Yes, I continued to get good, but well below excellent grades. And I learned in public school how to misbehave. When I graduated from Alexander Hamilton, my grades were good enough for acceptance at East Technical High School. East Tech was an exclusive technical school on the eastside of Cleveland which was primarily attended by white students. Those African American students attending East Tech were, therefore, good, if not outstanding students.

I became an inveterate truant at East Tech, for which I ended up in the Detention Home, as it was called in those days. After my release from the detention center, I transferred to John Adams. I attended school more regularly and showed some signs of academic capability. However, I continued to demonstrate an anti-schooling attitude. For instance I would cut all my classes some mornings and sneak back into school to attend my German class, which I loved. In 1951 I graduated. A friend of mine asked if I wanted to ride down to Kent State because he was going to register for college. That invitation changed my life, for college was the furthest thing from my mind. When I learned that it only cost $42.75 per quarter to attend, I said: "Me, too!" I had, as was typical of my attitude during high school at John Adams, emblazoned on my graduation caps mortarboard "From Corlett to Korea." I was certain that I would be drafted and sent off to the war in Korea. My friend's invitation to accompany him to Kent State provided me with what I considered my way to dodge the draft. As a certain way to avoid the war, at least on the front line, I took and passed the test for entrance into the Air Force ROTC training program. The plan was to no avail, for I was a poor student and was an even poorer prospective officer in the U.S. Air Force. After two quarters at Kent State I received notice that I was released from AFROTC and asked to leave Kent State for poor grades. In December 1952, I was drafted and lucked out by serving in England instead of Korea.

After my discharge from military service, I returned to Kent State where I was a more matured student. Indeed, I was known on campus as "4-point Eddie." I had to do well academically because I had several hours of to overcome. In those days there wasn't a "forgiveness" policy as there is now. I earned a B.A. majoring in German (4.00 GPA) and minoring in Spanish (3.5 GPA) in 1957. As an undergraduate, I also took class in Russian and French. After graduating with a cumulative average of 3.02, I remained at Kent and earned a Master's in German in 1959. After teaching German and Spanish at Hiram College for two years, I decided to attend the University of Kansas to study for my PhD in 1960. I earned a PhD in Medieval German Languages and a minor in Medieval History in 1965. When I left Kansas in 1962, I felt that I needed to experience the racial turmoil in the South, so I went to teach at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Needless to say it was a troubling time in Alabama, and the South in general. I enjoyed the experience, however. I liked the students and faculty, but I didn't like the administration of the school. Accordingly, there were still too many of the ghosts of Booker T. Washington haunting the institution. I returned to Hiram College in 1963.

I left Hiram in 1965 and volunteered at the fledgling community action program in Akron, Ohio. When the Community Action Council was funded later that year, I became its associate director. After six months, I was offered a position at Southern Illinois University in East St. Louis and became the director of education of the university's newly funded, but still unorganized Experiment in Higher Education (EHE). The administrative and instructional staff at EHE was composed of 5 of my classmates at KSU. It was the most productive educational experience fellow Kent Staters and I have helped to create. Southern Illinois University desired the creation of an educational program designed specifically for 90 percent African American students and 10 percent Caucasian students. I stayed at EHE for three years and the innovative educational values and methodologies I learned there have served me well later in my career. In 1968 I was approached by another fellow Kent State classmate to come back to Kent State and create the black studies program the Black United Students (BUS) had dramatically and stridently requested the University to establish. The creation of Kent State's first truly Diversity Intensive curricular program happened on August 15, 1969 and was designated the Institute for African American Affairs (IAAA). IAAA was granted office space in 111 Kent Hall, which office was one divided room. Technically, it stood between the best of two worlds, for it had the mens' room on its left and the ladies' room on its right. Each year after August 1969, the Institute grew. In 1970 our first move was to the third floor of Lowry Hall. In 1972 IAAA moved onto the first floor of the Old Student Union; this space was to house IAAA and the Black Culture Center, subsequently renamed the Center of Pan-African Culture (CP-AC). Later the entire facility was renamed in honor of Oscar W. Ritchie in 1978 at the request of the Black United Students, two years after IAAA gained departmental status.  The Department of Pan-African Studies (DPAS) was born in 1976. Since moving into Ritchie Hall in 1972, the IAAA and DPAS struggled to gain occupancy of the entire building.

It was to be my line of work for the next 25 years. I retired in January 1994. In honor of his long and dedicated service Kent State recently established an endowed Founders Scholarship in Edward W. and Shirley R. Crosby's name. The scholarship is open to any student coming out of high school with a 3.0 or higher average for any field of study at Kent State. While Dr. Crosby is proud of the scholarship being created in honor of him and his wife, he is perhaps more proud of the change that he caused to the university over the years. When I registered at Kent as an undergraduate in the 1950s, I entered a very unaccommodative environment. When I came back in 1969, at the behest of black students, it wasn't just to establish the Institute for African American Affairs. It was also to create change . . . and that's just what I proceeded to do. But that work has not yet been completed. Even though the Department has offered courses in Native American and Latino Studies in a continuing effort to diversify its curriculum. Even though it now has a very much improved learning environment and faculty, DPAS/IAAA and students must strive to advance what they have started.

Many of the thousands of students of color and others whose lives were made easier at Kent State after becoming involved in courses and programs at IAAA/DPAS will quickly inform anyone who inquires that I, Dr. Edward W. Crosby, while I was leading the department, accomplished my educational leadership mission well; however, I left a much work for those who remain in the Department new and old; students and faculty and staff to accomplish. Students continue to owe it to those students who preceded them and had the vision and courage and strength of mind to build these three educational and cultural institutions. Th­is admonition is especially addressed to students, for it was, as said earlier on, students who took the lead 40 years ago to diversify Kent State University's curriculum, student body, departmental faculty, student publications, artists and lecture series, etc., etc. It will now take students to perfect their diversity struggle across the campus.

Job Title

Emeritus Professor