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Dr. Fred Poellnitz

Growing up, how did you learn about the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans?

Response: I attended public schools in the late 1940s and 1950s. All of the books presented Negroes is the most negative terms. According to my textbooks, African Americans did not make any contributions in the shaping of politics, economics, and culture in the United States. At that time, Black was an unacceptable term. African American or Afro-American had not been coined.

Were you in a classroom? Reading a book? Talking with relatives or friends?

Response: I learned about our history through my parents and in college during the early 1960s while pledging the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. We were required to learn our history as part of the five-month pledge process at the University of Pittsburgh.

How has your understanding or knowledge of African-American history changed and/or developed over time?

Response: I could write a book on this topic. For the past two years on my Facebook page in the month of February I have highlighted a different African American who has made a significant contribution to American history. I have focused on individuals who are not well known. This project has given me an enormous amount of information about the impact of Blacks in American history.

What do you think is the most effective way to pass along this rich and growing history to future generations?

Response: From my perspective there are many effective ways to this issue. However, I believe it should start with modifying the books that are read to children during their formative years of ages 3 to 10 years of age. Although I am not a Hampton University graduate, I believe everyone should visit the university’s outstanding museum that highlights African American and Native America history. This museum should be a “must visit” for children of all ethnicities who are in the Tide Water area of Virginia.