A RACE AGAINST OBSCURITY: Merl R. Eppse and The Negro, Too, in American History

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In his 1971 book Black Historians: A Critique, Earl E. Thorpe called Merl R. Eppse one of the “Pioneers in Black Studies” (Thorpe 1971, 134, 139-140). A contemporary of W. E. B. Du Bois and Carter G. Woodson, Eppse was a history professor at Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State College (now Tennessee State University, a historically black institution) in Nashville from 1928 to 1960. Beginning in the late 1930s, he published editions of three books, A Guide to the Study of the Negro in American History (1937, 1943, 1953); The Negro, Too, in American History (1938, 1939, 1943, 1949); and, with A. P. Foster, An Elementary History of America, Including the Contributions of the Negro Race (1939, 1943, 1949, 1953). The study guide was meant to be used at high school and college levels with The Negro, Too, in American History, but Eppse asserted that it could be used with other texts or by itself. The elementary history was co-authored with the recording secretary of the Tennessee Historical Society, who also read and commented on The Negro, Too, in American History while still in manuscript. The rst edition of The Negro, Too, in American History-which is the focus of this chapter-entered a market that already included two black history books by respected African American scholars, Benjamin Grith Brawley’s A Short History of the American Negro, rst issued in 1913 by the New York publisher Macmillan with subsequent editions in 1919, 1927, and 1939, and Carter G. Woodson’s The Negro in Our History, rst issued in 1922 by his Washington, D.C. publishing house Associated Publishers with multiple later editions. Their books appeared in an era marked by an eort on the part of African American scholars to compensate for the lack of black history in mainstream textbooks (Moreau 2003). This chapter draws on the Merl R. Eppse Papers at the Tennessee State Library to investigate the ways in which Eppse’s book production and distribution can be understood as a race against obscurity by making African Americans visible as historical actors and by transforming Eppse into an author and publisher with inuence beyond his own classroom.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWriting History from the Margins
Subtitle of host publicationAfrican Americans and the Quest for Freedom
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781317199618
ISBN (Print)9781138679092
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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