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February 27, 2013

African-American History Month Spotlight: Alumni George W. Streator, Olive Davis Streator, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.

To celebrate African-American History Month, we are highlighting 3 alumni from the Davis/Streator family: Olive Elnora Davis Streator, George Walter Streator, and Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Olive and Benjamin were brother and sister while Olive and George were married.

Olive Elnora Davis Streator graduated from Flora Stone Mather College of Western Reserve University in 1926, attended the Graduate School in 1928, and graduated from the School of Applied Social Sciences in 1931. She was born in 1905 in Washington, D.C., the oldest child of Elnora Dickerson and Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr. (the first African-American general in the U. S. Army). She attended Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., Tuskegee Institute, and Atlanta University before entering Mather College in 1924. She majored in English and received the B.A. in 1926. As a student she was a member of the Musical Arts Club. She taught at Bluefield State Institute in West Virginia (a historically black teacher’s college) for 3 years (1926-1929) before returning to Cleveland to enter the School of Applied Social Sciences in 1929. She received the M.S.S.A. in 1931. Her major field of interest was child welfare. She taught at Bennett College for Women after her graduation from SASS. She attended the University of Chicago before moving to New York City where she worked for various social service agencies. Olive was a member of the American Association of Social Workers (later the National Association of Social Workers.) She and George had a son, George Davis Streator.

George Walter Streator was born in 1902 in Nashville, Tennessee. He received the A.B. degree from Fisk University in 1926 and also attended Columbia University and the University of Chicago. He was a teacher when he entered Western Reserve University Graduate School in 1929 and received the M.A. in Mathematics in June 1930. His thesis was The Newton-Leibniz Controversy and the Later History of the Calculus in England, with a Short Account of the Ideas that Resembled the Calculus Before Newton and Leibniz. His thesis is available for use in the University Archives. Throughout his career Streator was a teacher, writer, and labor organizer. He was business manager then managing editor of The Crisis in 1933-1934. He worked for the War Production Board during World War II. In 1945 Streator became the first African-American reporter for the New York Times.

Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. was born in Washington, D.C. in 1911. The family moved to Tuskegee in Alabama before moving to Cleveland in 1924. He graduated from Central High School in 1929. He attended Fisk University in the summer before entering Adelbert College of Western Reserve University in the fall. While his father moved to Wilberforce University to teach Military Science and Tactics, young Benjamin stayed with his sister Olive who was his guardian while he attended WRU. After leaving WRU, Benjamin attended the University of Chicago before entering West Point in 1932. Davis had a distinguished career in the military like his father, becoming the first African-American general in the U.S. Air Force. He was the leader of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Other African-American History Month alumni highlights include John Sykes Fayette, class of 1836.

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February 11, 2013

Famous Campus Visitors - Frederick Douglass

In 1854 former slave and noted abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, addressed the Western Reserve College Philozetian Society during Commencement Week. His topic was "The Claims of the Negro Ethnologically." It was reported that nearly three thousand people attended.

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The Western Reserve College campus at Hudson

From the perspective of 2013, the prospect of listening to a nearly two-hour speech in Ohio’s July heat and humidity seems an unlikely attraction. But, in the 1850s public, written communication consisted of newspapers and magazines - and not too many of them were available on the Ohio frontier. Consequently, long public speeches were the norm. In fact, the student literary societies, like the Philozetian, existed to give students practice in debate and declamation.

Douglass urged his listeners to take an active role in the slavery debate. “The relation subsisting between the white and black people of this country is the vital question of the age. In the solution of this question, the scholars of America will have to take an important and controlling part. This is the moral battle field to which their country and their God now call them. In the eyes of both, the neutral scholar is an ignoble man.”

Quotations are all from John W. Blassingame, ed. The Frederick Douglass Papers. Series One: Speeches, Debates, and Interviews. Vol. 2 1847-1854 (Yale University, 1982): 496-525

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