Paying homage, saluting history

by Greg Gunderson, Ph.D.

Historian, educator and publisher Carter G. Woodson, Ph.D., proposed “Negro History Week” in 1926 to celebrate and educate the masses about African Americans’ contributions to American history. Launched in February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, Negro History Week expanded into the month-long Black History Month in 1976.

Here at Park University, we celebrate this history as well as the many contributions of Pirates past and present. We are #OneFamily – strong, diverse and united.


Black History at Park
In the fall of 1950, Park College admitted its first African American students: two transfer students from Kansas City’s Lincoln Junior College. In 1952, Marvin Brooks, became Park’s first African American graduate. Also a Fulbright Scholar and founding member of the Kansas City Consensus, Brooks became a renowned leader in education in the Kansas City area.

In addition to the countless contributions made by African American faculty, staff and students over the years, we are proud to celebrate Spencer Cave, an African American groundskeeper hired in 1875 by Park founder John McAfee, who left such an enduring legacy of peace, goodwill and harmony that we continue to celebrate his contributions to our University’s culture long after his death in 1947, through the Spencer Cave Lecture Series.

Inclusive programming
During the month of February, we are proud to present the following events in commemoration of Black History Month and in support of the Park’s core value of inclusivity:

Contact the National Archives at Kansas City at to RSVP for the Spencer Cave lecture.

Beyond February
As leader of this institution, I understand that to be truly inclusive, efforts toward bringing diverse perspectives to the table must extend beyond a single month of recognition. That’s why we have committed to providing inclusive programming and events throughout the academic year—by hosting CIC Woodrow Wilson Fellow David Shipler in November; with Park alumnus and current Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President and CEO Bob Kendrick, ’85, serving as Park’s commencement speaker in December; and in the weeks to come, as we assist a group of scholars in formally requesting that Sgt. William Butler, an African American WWI hero, be re-evaluated for Medal of Honor consideration. (More information on that effort is soon to come.)

What events and programs would you like to see at Park University in support of diversity? Please send me a note at and let me know your thoughts!

Photo credits:
Carter G. Woodson, Ph.D.: Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum.
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Park’s Black History: Office of External Relations

Sergeant William Butler: Delmarva African American History.
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