Classics Teachers and The HistoryMakers

Note: See other posts about the HistoryMakers Project here, here, here, and here.

Stories about Latin, Greek, and Classics teachers frequently occur among the references to Classics we have found in the HistoryMakers archive. Interviewees from a wide array of backgrounds situate these teachers in narratives of their formative education and as influential mentors.

Of course, praise for Latin teachers and the commonly cited benefits of learning Latin appear, as Marie Johnson-Calloway, a painter and art professor, describes:

“And I never could understand why we learned Latin, but I will defy anybody to question my grammar now, because she taught grammar, English grammar, through teaching Latin to us.  And she was just an outstanding teacher.  My Latin teacher, after her, was also outstanding.  I had a lot of teachers who I thought were excellent.  And they introduced us to things that our children nowadays don’t get.  And we learned these classic things, and you know, you don’t forget them.”

Marie Johnson-Calloway ©TheHistoryMakers


Historian Lonnie Bunch relates a more particular experience when he talks about Howard University’s history program, influenced in part by a Howard professor in Classics, Frank Snowden:

“What I learned about was, first of all, I learned not just–this is what Howard was good at, I didn’t just learn black history.  And while I learned those things, I also learned new lenses of understanding history, that it wasn’t black history and white history, but that rather there were lenses of black life that illuminate all aspects of the American past… So I learned a lot of that kind of thing.  And I also learned, candidly, because there was a lot of work that was being done by Frank Snowden on the black presence in the ancient world of Greece and Rome, you began to suddenly ask different questions.  Why wasn’t that ever discussed?  Why don’t we know that history?  So it really just stimulated this sort of real interest in learning about the past for me.”

Lonnie Bunch ©TheHistoryMakers



Marie Johnson-Calloway (The HistoryMakers A2005.083), interview by Loretta Henry, 03/29/2005, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 2, Marie Johnson-Calloway describes influential teachers at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, Maryland.

Lonnie Bunch (The HistoryMakers A2003.212), interview by Julieanna Richardson, 09/05/2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 3, story 10, Lonnie Bunch discusses Howard University’s history department in the early 1970s.


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