- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 16, 2004

Edgar Allan Toppin, 76, history professor

ETTRICK, Va. (AP) — Edgar Allan Toppin, a nationally known researcher on black history, died of congestive heart failure Dec. 8. He was 76.

Mr. Toppin, a professor emeritus at Virginia State University, had a career that spanned nearly five decades during which he wrote 10 books.

As president of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, Mr. Toppin was instrumental in turning Black History Week into Black History Month in 1976, said Lauranett Lee, curator of black history at the Virginia Historical Society.

Mr. Toppin’s work helped legitimize the study of black history, she said.

“He just brought so much professionalism to it,” said Miss Lee, a former student of Mr. Toppin’s. “When he came to Virginia, he really began to change how people looked at African-American studies.”

Born in Harlem, N.Y., in 1928, Mr. Toppin was 16 and already working when he earned a place at the tuition-free New York City College. After a semester, he won a scholarship to Howard University, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

He received his Ph.D. in 1955 from Northwestern University, where he met his wife, Antionette, also a Virginia State professor emeritus.

During the mid-1960s, Mr. Toppin created a 30-lesson television course, “Americans from Africa,” aired on educational stations across the country.

In 1969, he wrote “Blacks in America,” a 15-part series of articles published by the Christian Science Monitor. From then on, he was in demand as a researcher in black history.

Mr. Toppin’s survivors include two daughters, Louise Toppin of Greenville, N.C., and Avis Bent of Fairfax, two sisters and three grandchildren.

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