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“An Unfailing Legacy”
Why I Edited The Book

by Ja A. Jahannes, PhD
Savannah, Georgia

I am certainly prejudiced but I think it was absolutely ingenious of the alumni of Lincoln University of Pennsylvania to come together and edit and have alumni contribute to a book about the history and culture of their alma mater, the oldest historically Black university in the United States.

Lincoln University, PA has produced many eminent graduates who have left indelible marks on the 19th, 20th and 21th centuries. Graduates like Langston Hughes, who was and still is, posthumously, one of the best regarded of the world’s literati. Hughes was an innovative poet, whose poems have been translated into more than 130 languages. Hughes also wrote in multiple genres; plays, novels, essays, and others. His works have been set to music by a number of outstanding composers and arrangers.

Another eminent American graduate of Lincoln University was Thurgood Marshall, who prepared the 1954 Civil Rights case, Brown vs. Board of Education, that desegregated the schools in America. Marshall became the first African American Solicitor General of the U.S. and subsequently the first African American on the Supreme Court of the U.S.

Lincoln University also produced among its distinguished international graduates, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first premier of the nation of Ghana, and Nandi Azikiwe, the first Prime minister of Africa’s largest nation, Nigeria. Both these Lincoln University graduates lead their countries to independence.

What I think really sets “An Unfailing Legacy” as a reference and distinctive contribution to literature is that it is without parallel as a seminal book about a historically Black university and a rare book on colleges and universities in general. It will be a significant contribution, I believe, to the study of universities and their cultures as well as the specific culture and history of a university that has always been a premier institution.

The Lincoln University alumni that edited and produced the compendium on their alma mater gave me the honor of serving as executive editor. The book includes many stories about the graduates and their alma mater. In many instances they included in the book reprints of speeches or papers of graduates that were given at Lincoln University or elsewhere around the world.

“An Unfailing Legacy” also recognizes the great presidents that have served at Lincoln University from the founding of the university as Ashmun Institute in 1854 to more recent times, including the first African American president, Dr. Horace Mann Bond. Dr. Bond left a mark on the university by diversifying its faculty at a time when most university faculties were white. He brought to Lincoln university distinguished scholars who were Jewish and Black. He also helped the university to develop an emphasis on Black and African consciousness and to reach out to the world as the legitimate sphere of the university’s faculty and student interest. Dr. Bond is the father of statesman and Civil Rights leader, Julian Bond. Later, in 1961, Dr. Marvin Wachman would become the first Jewish president of Lincoln University and continued the legacy of Dr. Bond to diversify the university’s faculty and student body by bringing women students as campus residents for the first time.

It must be noted that the university had a woman student in the early years of the school and that the first woman graduate of the university was a white American, Ruth Fales. In the early years of the university, women lived off campus and were not really integrated into the life of the university. Today, the university has more women students than men students. The history of women students at Lincoln University is told in “An Unfailing Legacy” by its women graduates.

The editors of the book sought to preserve some of the history of the university by republishing some of the exact texts of some unforgettable speeches on the campus, like the commencement address given on June 6, 1961 by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That speech has extraordinary similarities to Dr. King’s now world famous, March On Washington, “I have A Dream” speech given before 250, 000 Americans on the national mall in 1963. Additionally speeches by historically renowned physicist and humanitarian, Dr. Albert Einstein; pioneering anthropologist Dr. Margaret Mead; Under Secretary of the U.N. and peace negotiator, Ralph Bunche; and sociologist Gunner Myrdal. Many other speeches by world recognized and esteemed personalities are included in the book as they were delivered at Lincoln University.

While “An Unfailing Legacy” is a documented history of the university, it also recognizes its unique and evolving culture. A concept that I examine in my book, WordSong Poets, published in October 2011, called the “rabble” is further explored in “An Unfailing Legacy.” The concept of “the rabble” briefly encapsulated, is the idiosyncratic use of language that was historic at Lincoln University. This use of language in ways required extraordinary facility with repartee. The rabble also produced inventive names for most students which made them have to live up to their names or otherwise verbally defend themselves. These language challenges are what have been attributed to making Lincoln University graduates like Hughes, Marshall, Nkrumah, Azikwe, poet Melvin Tolson, diplomat Franklin Williams, lawyer Clarence Mitchell, Jr., who might be called the architect of Washington, DC. Civil Rights consciousness, and many others so facile with words. As I always told my university students, "It is words that lift us up above the other animals because words give us the ability to have ideation which produces planning and advanced problem solving.”

There is no doubt that Lincoln University has produced an abundance of America’s great problem solvers. The graduates have been especially adept at solving problems of human consciousness and respect for humanity among all peoples.

Included in the book are works by other esteemed writers who have in some way been associated with the university or its legacy, such as Spelman University scholar and author, Dr. Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper; Joanne V. Gabbin, Head of Furious Flower Poetry center, the most recognized repository and program poetry center for African American poetry; Ralph Johnson Bunche; Gunnar Myrdal; noted psychologist, Dr. Na’im Akbar, Dr. Margaret Mead; and Dr. Albert Einstein.

Alumni contributors included Calvin Coleman, whose artwork graces the cover; poet, Kenneth A. Poole; Sheila Sawyer; humanities scholar, Dr. David Closson: author and researcher, Susan Gunn Pevar; Civil Rights activist, Sam E. Anderson, Tyrene Wright, city panning pioneer, David S. Williams, attorney, Alisa R. Drayton; noted photographer, Travis Broxton; Darlene Walker; retired university librarian, Sophy H. Cornwell; scholar, political activist, educator and retired university professor and vice president, Dr. Richard Winchester; attorney, Carol A. Black; noted nuclear neuroradiologist, Noble L. Thompson, Jr. MD; South African social worker, Juliet Ntonjana Dladla- Mdluli; author, Thomas Garrett; Attorney and scholar, Maceo Felton, JD; educator and author, Lenetta Raysha Lee; Dean, J. Cameron Bayne; science fiction author, Charles R. Saunders; Carol Anderson-Lewis; Attorney Howard Brown; Langston Hughes; academic administrator, Andristine M. Robinson; Grace Frankowsky, Delain Allen, Leanna Nelson Johnson; researcher and social scholar, Roxanne Evans; evangelist, author and scholar, Frances-Ellen Paul; minister, Stephanie Rider Benson; writer, Renee Mintz; and diplomat, cultural preservationist and investment expert, Sir. Oliver St.Clair. Franklin, OBE.

On the back cover of “An Unfailing Legacy,” I wrote “An Unfailing Legacy is a rich and varied compendium of Lincoln University's continued production of sons and daughters who are connected through their distinguished accomplishments, compassion for mankind, and the traditions and folklore of the university. It is an insightful, accessible, engaging, and invaluable study of the history and culture of Lincoln University, and the influences of her alumni and family throughout the nation and the world.” I am certain that that statement is true now that I have heard back from so many readers of the book.

Of course, I’m prejudiced about editing a book on my alma mater, a university that has meant so much to me my entire adult life and which has influenced everything I have done in my multifaceted career and everyone I have touched, especially my students on three continents. But I am not so naïve and not so wasteful of my time to research and commit as I did to the Herculean task of editing 566 pages multiple times as I had to do with “An Unfailing Legacy” to be sure it withstood the rigors of the academy without understanding what was at stake. At stake was a vital legacy of an institution that is as American and as international as any one will find anywhere.

We have an obligation, I believe, to capture the American story in all its dimensions for our children, for future generations and for scholars and researchers who will need to understand our times and our institutions, especially those that have been pivotal in America’s evolution. I understood this work as a necessity of life and an undeniable demand for remembrance. I shall leave it to the reader of “An Unfailing Legacy. Hail Lincoln!

Dr. Ja A. Jahannes is a writer of fiction and nonfiction, spoken word artist, composer and a social critic, psychologist, and educator. He is the president of Jahannes Productions and the CEO of TMP Records. He is a frequent writer and columnist for numerous publications s well as contributing editor to Africanaonline Magazine and Toonari Media and News. His work has appeared in such diverse publications as the Journal of Pan African Studies, the Journal of Ethnic Studies, Vital Speeches, the Journal of the National Medical Association, Ebony, the Black Scholar, Encore, Class, Black Issues in Higher Education and the Saturday Review. He served as associate director for development and member of faculty at Lincoln University (PA); visiting professor at Haile Selassie University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; head of the Departments of Professional Studies and Liberal Studies, Kyambogo University, Kampala, Uganda; dean of the School of Education at Hampton University, and founding dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Savannah State University. He received a B. A. degree with honors from Lincoln University (PA), two Master's degrees from Hampton University and a Ph.D. degree from the University of Delaware.

Dr. Jahannes has lectured in Africa, Asia, South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Europe. His many honors and awards include the United States Air Force Commendation Medal, The Langston Hughes Award, The Joseph J. Malone Fellowship, and The Danny Glover Award. He has received grants from the U. S. Office of Education, the U. S. Department of State, the Longwood Foundation, the Mott Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Georgia Council for the Humanities and other institutions. His work also appears in a number of anthologies including Black Poetry of the Deep South (Beans Brown Rice Publishers), African American Poetry (Globe Press: Simon and Schuster, 1993), African American Literature (Globe Fearon Press: Simon and Schuster, 1993), Literary Savannah (Hill Street Press, 1998). Hip Hop Speaks to Children, edited by Nikki Giovanni, which was twice a New York Times Best Seller and recipient of the NAACP Image Award. He has written and produced twelve plays, most notably the musicals "Yes, Lord;" "One More Sunday;" and "Nealey's Playing Ground," “Juice,” “Plenty Good Room,” and “Mister Mercer.” Dr. Jahannes has had two novels published, Big Man, and The Prayer Stone. He has had two books relating to poetry published, TruthFeasting and WordSong Poets as well as the original volume of Truthfeasting, (Africa World Press, ISBN: 0865431914) as well as over two hundred and fifty articles, reviews, poems, and plays. He is currently completing the musical score and lyrics for Ain’t I A Woman, a one woman opera based on the famous speech by abolitionist Sojourner Truth. He is the executive editor of An Unfailing Legacy on Lincoln University, PA. He has also written a collection of essays, two oratorios,(most notably Montage for Martin and With This Faith, two symphony librettos, two opera librettos, a song cycle, and lyrics for over 200 songs. Some of his religious music has been published by Roger Dean Publishing Company, a division of the Lorenz Corporation, and JTM Publishing Company. Dr. Jahannes has directed many theatre and performance productions, touring in the U. S. and abroad. He is a BMI Publisher and writer and a frequent television and radio guest.

Published in In Motion Magazine February 8, 2013

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