Posts Tagged ‘New Testament history’

Reflections on Black History: Seventy years ago

February 22, 2021
My class photo taken in the third grade 70 years ago reminds me of a desire to “make history” during the celebration of what was then Negro History Week. Times and the name have changed, but the desire still burns brightly.


As the celebration of Black History Month continues to unfold, I recall an event occurring 70 years ago to the date on February 22, 1951, when I was eight years old in the 3rd grade at Roosevelt School, an all-black school in Gary, Indiana where I was born. I have been reflecting while looking at my class picture and noticing the bulletin board in the back of the classroom decorated with these words: “Negro History Week.” Since that time, the celebration and recognition of the contribution of African Americans have been expanded to Black History Month.

The bulletin board in the picture reminded me that at that time I consciously determined that I would someday “make history” and do something significant as an African American. Back in the day, it was expressed this way: “I wanted to be a credit to the Negro Race.”

Over the past seven decades, I continue to strive to make that desire a reality. In 2019 during a book signing and presentation during Black History Month 2019, I shared from my newly published book Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Transform Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. I also reflected upon the significance of Black History and related some of the events transpiring in my life since that class photo was taken.

I went on to graduate as Valedictorian of Froebel High School, class of 1960 and enrolled as a pharmacy student at Purdue University from 1960-1965, becoming the first African American to graduate from Purdue’s five-year pharmacy program. During my time as a pharmacy student, I was also introduced to Black poetry and would later discover my passion to teach and to write poetry.

Upon graduation from Purdue, I took the state board examination and passed to become a registered pharmacist in Indiana. My first full-time job was as a hospital pharmacist at Methodist Hospital in Gary, Indiana. I was enjoying the good life until I received “Greeting from Uncle Sam” and I was drafted into the US Army in 1967, in the midst of the Viet Nam conflict. That two-year stint I describe as my “Lemonade Experience” in that what I thought would have been the worst thing that could have ever happened turned out providentially to be far better than I could have ever imagined. While I was a pharmacy instructor at the Medical Field Service School in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, I discovered the joys of classroom teaching and writing poetry, passions that continue to burn.

During my stint in the military from 1967-1969, I also rode the crest of the Jesus Movement, a national revival impacting the lives of countless young people and others. I experienced a powerful conversion that introduced me to the transforming power of God through receiving the Holy Spirit and studying the Bible.

Twenty years later in 1981, I enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Indiana University, pursuing a doctorate in English with a minor of Afro-American Studies. I completed my dissertation in 1986 entitled “Portrait of the Bondslave in the Bible: Slavery and Freedom in the Works of Four Afro-American Poets.” Of those four early Black poets discussed, I first heard of three of them as a freshman at Purdue in 1961.

As I reflect upon my life, I acknowledge that I have been blessed to enjoy the overflow of God’s goodness and grace. Today, I am a Vietnam veteran and cancer survivor of more than 20 years. In addition, I am a former registered pharmacist, a published poet and a writer, a retired professor of African American Literature, who continues to teach because “I love the teacher’s task and find my richest prize in minds that open and in eyes that ask.”

Just as I made up my mind in elementary school that I would someday make a significant contribution as an African American and someday do something to “make history,” I am sure that others now living and those who come after me also have a similar burning aspiration to “make history.” So often we think of history as people and events of the past; however, we must remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “The reader of history must replace the words ‘there’ and ‘then’ with the words ‘here’ and ‘now.’”

I close my sharing with an original poem shared during the opening session of a New Testament History Class that I taught in 1976 at a Bible college in Kansas when I knew that I was destined to teach on the collegiate level. That class and countless other events confirmed my desire someday to make history.

The Living Gallery of the New Testament

In the living gallery of the New Testament is reserved a special space
An empty canvas awaits each feature of your face.
Each of us paints a self-portrait in the minutest detail.
To develop your life’s masterpiece, you can never fail
When you follow Christ’s example, the Master of the Word,
Beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord
Each day abounds with potential for matchless artistry.
Now is your golden moment—you are making “His Story.”

I close with this related song “History” by Maverick City Music



Further reflections on Black History Month

February 26, 2016

Lonnell's class photo 1951

In reflecting upon events connected to Black History Month 2016, my mind goes back to an event that that occurred 65 years. On February 22, 1951, I smiled while my class picture was taken, as an ever eager, third-grade student. The bulletin board in the back of the classroom was decorated with these words: “Negro History Week.” This original designation was established in February, 1926, as the fruitful vision of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). Since 1976 the celebration has been transformed into the current month-long celebration.

The bulletin board in the picture reminded me that at that time I consciously determined that I would someday “make history” and do something significant as an African American. Back in the day, I expressed this burning desire this way: “I want to be a credit to the Negro Race.”

As I reflect upon my diverse life, I have been blessed to work in various careers. As a former registered pharmacist, licensed in Indiana and North Carolina, I was the first African American graduate from Purdue University’s 5-year pharmacy program. Years later I continued to work in pharmacy while pursuing an academic career in higher education while working on a doctorate in English from Indiana University. After teaching English on the university level for more than 30 years in Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and North Carolina, I retired as a Professor of African American literature. I continue to teach, however, because I love “the teacher’s task.”

Most amazingly, I was introduced to classroom teaching after being drafted into the US Army during the Vietnam era when I chose to teach pharmacy technicians rather than work in a dispensary. Having experienced the joy of teaching while in the military, I eventually discovered immense satisfaction from teaching on the collegiate level.

In 1976, I served as an adjunct instructor at The Way College of Emporia in Kansas where I taught New Testament History. In the opening session I recall quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “The reader of history must replace the words ‘there’ and ‘then’ with the words ‘here’ and ‘now.’”

Forty years following that initial teaching experience on the collegiate level, I am serving as an adjunct professor at another Bible College, Carolina College of Biblical Studies in Fayetteville, NC, where I teach public speaking, writing, American literature and other general education courses. In addition, I also serve as an adjunct professor at Fayetteville State University, the place where I first taught composition and literature as a full-time instructor more than 20 years ago. “Oh, the Providence of God!”

In addition to teaching writing, as a professional writer I have published articles on various  subjects, such as biblical research and African-American literature. Furthermore as a published poet, I continue to write, maintaining this personal blog while also serving as a writer for another Internet publication.

Over the years I have been blessed to work in an array of careers, as hospital pharmacist, editor, administrator, director of public relations, information analyst and others. As I began to savor the joys of teaching on the collegiate level, I also endeavored to hone my poetic skills. As I concluded the opening session of New Testament History class that I taught 40 years ago, I used an illustration to I emphasize the importance of “making history” and that all believers today are also a vital part of the history of the New Testament. I brought a full length mirror to the class along with an empty canvas. I stressed that during the class each of us would be painting a life-sized self-portrait which would eventually hang in the “Living Gallery of the New Testament.” I ended by reciting this original poem related to the ongoing theme of the course:

The Living Gallery of the New Testament

In the living gallery of the New Testament is reserved a special space:
An empty canvas awaits each feature of your face.
Each of us paints a self-portrait in minutest detail.
To develop your life’s masterpiece, you can never fail
When you follow Christ’s example, the Master of the Word,
Beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord.
Each day abounds with potential for matchless artistry.
Now is your golden moment—you are making “His Story.”

We conclude our comments with “The Truth of His Story” a song written by Keith Washo, featuring Vanessa Lombera/Vocals