Try and Be Somebody, a biography of the inspiring life of Dr. Henry Lake Dickason, documents the life of the first president of Bluefield State College, Bluefield, West Virginia, and an early 20th century leader of Black education. Though Dickason’s remarkable achievements have been largely ignored by history, the man comes to life with this narrative.
Dickason was born two decades after the end of the Civil War and grew up in a log cabin on Peters Mountain near Lindside, West Virginia. He learned about slavery from his grandparents on both sides of the family, all four were slaves, his father’s parents on the farm where Dr. Dickason grew up and his mother’s parents on a farm at Gap Mills, West Virginia. The life of Henry Lake vividly portrays the lives of the rural Black community of the time. The reader can hear the swing of the cabin door, smell the dinner cooking, and feel hope and sorrows of the family as they live out their lives on Peters Mountain in West Virginia.
Young Henry Lake learned about the oppression of segregation, especially the limited opportunity for black children to get an education from the struggles of his own life. But he recognized early that education was the key to a decent and successful life. Dickason’s thirst for knowledge led him on a transformative journey against formidable odds from a rural agricultural community to an academic world, first at Bluefield Colored Institute, a boarding high school, then to Columbus, Ohio, earning degrees at Ohio State University and becoming the national president of a then fledgling black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. He was awarded two doctorates later, one in a ceremony in which Eleanor Roosevelt gave the commencement address.
Dickason’s career in education began at Bluefield Colored Institute in 1914 and was part of the evolution of the school through several roles as it became an accredited college in 1949. His fight to maintain the college and its facilities and to expand the campus to include new areas of study spanned nearly forty years. After retirement there, he accepted the presidency of Morristown College in Tennessee and worked to lead the school until his death in 1957.
He rose quietly above racial inequities and personal tragedies to hold the door open for others to have better opportunities. He became a driving force in racial pride and in ensuring that education was available for all those in southern West Virginia who desired to learn.
Dickason’s character has such presence that the reader will make the journey with him, rooting for him and inspired by him the whole way. From his own challenges and successes to the roles he plays in the lives of others, Dr. Dickason lives on these pages. His life, guided by his father’s words, “Try and be somebody,” inspires us all.
Fifty-eight illustrations, an appendix, and multiple indexes supplement the story.
|Publisher:||Fathom Publishing Company|
|Product dimensions:||7.50(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.40(d)|