Arvarh Strickland (1930-2013)

Arvarh Strickland was the first Black faculty member at the University of Missouri. He was recruited by the Department of History, which sought a Black historian to teach Black history. Strickland was hired at the rank of full professor and taught at the University of Missouri from 1969 until 1996. During his time at the University, he was instrumental in the development of the Black Studies minor, now available as a major, to promote a broader perspective on America both in the past and present. His achievements during his time in Columbia are numerous. He and his family integrated the First United Methodist Church and he helped found the Guardians to help support African-Americans in the city. He additionally served on city committees, helped organize Black voters, and contributed to other organizations both on and off campus.

Strickland was born in 1930 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Jim Crow laws were fully in effect at the time and Strickland’s childhood was largely confined to the few blocks set aside for Black citizens. The 1960s, when Strickland completed his doctorate and began teaching, first at the Chicago Teachers College and subsequently at the University of Missouri, were a time when civil rights legislation was finally being passed even as Black leaders were being assassinated. At this time, Strickland built his career around advocacy for and the history of Black peoples in America, producing numerous important works including History of the Chicago Urban League (1966) and The Black American Experience (1974).

The University Archives hold many papers related to Strickland during his time at the University of Missouri. Special Collections additionally has several materials written by Strickland, of which we have chosen to highlight the essay collection Commitment: Fatherhood in Black America, which he contributed to, and the introduction he wrote for The African-American Experience at the University of Missouri, 1950-1994, published by the UMC Black Alumni Society.