Toppin, Edgar A(llan) 1928-2004

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TOPPIN, Edgar A(llan) 1928-2004


See index for CA sketch: Born January 22, 1928, in New York, NY; died of congestive heart failure December 8, 2004, in Richmond, VA. Historian, educator, and author. Toppin was widely regarded as a leading authority on African-American history and helped legitimize black history as an important academic discipline. Growing up the son of poor immigrants in Harlem, he developed a passion for reading and learning that would eventually take him to Howard University. Here he earned a B.A. in 1949 and an M.A. in 1950. He then took a Ph.D. at Northwestern University in 1955. He taught at Alabama State University for a year, then spent the late 1950s as a chair of social science at Fayetteville State University. From 1959 to 1964 he taught history at the University of Akron. Toppin then joined the Virginia State University faculty as a professor of history, and he became dean of the graduate school there, retiring in 1993. Not only a passionate teacher of black history, Toppin did whatever he could to educate the public on the important role African Americans played in this country's past. During the 1960s, for example, he created the educational television series Americans from Africa; and as national president of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History from 1973 until 1976, he was instrumental in expanding national Black History Week into Black History Month. Toppin was also the first black person to be on the Virginia Historical Society's board of trustees. Toppin authored or coauthored several books on black history, including A Mark Well Made: The Negro Contribution to American Culture (1967) and The Black American in United States History (1973).



Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, MI), December 12, 2004, p. B5.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 1, 2002.

Washington Post, December 14, 2004, p. B5.