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Professor explores Toledo's black history

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    Howard University professor Rubin Patterson talks about his new book, 'Black Toledo,' during his speech at the University of Toledo Law Center.

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    University of Toledo director of African Studies Angela M. Siner right, smiles as Howard University professor Rubin Patterson speaks Wednesday at the University of Toledo Law Center.

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    Howard University professor Rubin Patterson

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    Howard University professor Rubin Patterson talks about his new book, 'Black Toledo,' during his speech at the University of Toledo Law Center.

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    Dr. Helen Cooks, right, listens to Howard University professor Rubin Patterson.

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    University of Toledo assistant professor of sociolgy Monita Mungo, right, is among attendees who listened to Howard University professor Rubin Patterson during a speech Wednesday.

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Twyla Wheaton of Toledo listened to the speaker intently, without moving or taking her eyes off him.

“I am a native Toledoan. I was born here and I lived here all my life,” Ms. Wheaton, a retired Toledo Public Schools teacher, said. “I personally did not run into a lot of segregation or discrimination maybe because I lived in all-black neighborhoods. It’s the accomplishments of black people in Toledo that interest me very much.”

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Howard University professor Rubin Patterson talks about his new book, 'Black Toledo,' during his speech at the University of Toledo Law Center.

The Blade/Lori King
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Ms. Wheaton, 76, was among about 100 people who listened to Rubin Patterson, professor and chair of sociology and criminology at Howard University, talk Wednesday at the University of Toledo Law Center about a book he recently co-edited. Attending dignitaries included Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo).

Titled Black Toledo: A Documentary History of the African-American Experience in Toledo, Ohio, the book was published by Brill Publishers in November as a hardcover. It is to be published as a paperback by Haymarket Books in December.

“It’s a documentary in terms that we went out and compiled documents from history,” Mr. Patterson said. To those who told him, “You didn’t include this and you didn’t include that,” he has one thing to say: “You know what? Go and make your own damn book. ... It’s just one book. I want people to continue doing it and build up a library [on this topic].”

As to those who bring up accusations of partisanship, he said, “We are partisans — about social justice.”

The 317-page book includes newspaper articles, academic papers, census data and popular writings about Toledo that chronicle more than 200 years of Toledo’s African-American history. It covers events from the Underground Railroad to boxer Wilbert “Skeeter” McClure winning a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome and UT starting quarterback Chuck Ealey leading the UT Rockets to a 35-0 record from 1969 to 1971.

Mr. Patterson taught at UT before leaving in 2014 to teach at Howard University. He was instrumental in launching UT’s Africana Studies program in the early 1990s and later served as its director, according to event organizers.

“The topic [of the book] excites me because I came here in 1957 from Fort Benning, Ga., after getting discharged from the military, and I found employment here,” said Norman A. Bell, 85, a retired interim director of the Toledo Board of Community Relations and Affirmative Action who originally is from Baton Rouge, La.

“I am here to learn about people who arrived to Toledo before I came here. And I am curious about what they did to contribute to the community as being an asset, as opposed to a liability.”

Contact Mike Sigov at sigov@theblade.com419-724-6089, or on Twitter @mikesigovblade.

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