By Byron Johnson, CSU History Club
Dr. Charles H. Wesley was the first president of Central State University from 1947 to 1965. He was also was an educator, writer, author and historian.
Most known for his works, The History of Alpha Phi Alpha: A Development in Negro College Life (1929) and The Story of the Negro Retold with Carter G. Woodson (1959), Dr. Wesley was able to commendably allocate the life of the Negro onto a popular platform in more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles. He was one of the many Afro Americans who played a huge role in reshaping the identity of Blacks in America during the early and mid-1900’s.
Dr. Wesley received his bachelor of arts degree from Fisk University, master of arts degree, from Yale, and a Doctorate degree in history from Harvard. A true historian, he not only compiled history, but also made history by being only the fourth black to receive a Ph.D., from Harvard University. In fact, his doctoral dissertation, “Negro Labor in the United States 1850 to 1925,” was the first comprehensive study of American blacks as laborers instead of the overly abused role as slaves.
He went on to gain lead positions at multiple programs and universities, which were all aimed at the advancement of blacks, such as Graduate Chapter of Mu Lambda, Wilberforce University, Central State University, Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and archon of Sigma Pi Phi. He was an assistant professor, associate professor and department chair, among other things, at Howard University for 30 years.
Dr. Wesley was an early advocate and educator of black studies, which aimed to restore the image of the Negro. Being an ordained minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, this could have influenced him in his advocacy for blacks. His efforts even allowed him to be rewarded with the Guggenheim Fellowship Award and honorary doctorate degrees of numerous programs.
Today, we remember a key figure in our University’s and African American history, Dr. Charles H. Wesley.