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The Northerner

Speaker hopes to ‘thieve the past’

Regan Coomer

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Runaway slaves first said it, and now because of Black History Month lecturer Dr. J. Henry Blake, Northern Kentucky University students can apply it.

“Thief the path” is one example of the advice Blake offered NKU students in his lecture Feb. 24. Blake is the Director of African American studies and a professor of sociology, educational leadership and policy studies at Iowa State University.

His lecture, titled “The Underground and the University: Railroads to Freedom,” encouraged students to travel the university’s “railroad” to success.

Runaway slaves would use the phrase “thief the path” when they were escaping from their masters on the Underground Railroad, Blake said.

A modern definition of “thief the path” would be students taking advantage of the opportunity to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals traveling the “path” of the university, in the same way the runaway slaves took advantage of the Underground Railroad 140 years ago.

All people have someone in their ancestry who decided to “thieve the path,” someone who decided to find a new world where true freedom could exist, Blake said.

The significance of Black History Month, Blake said, is to understand that we’re not here today without an understanding of yesterday and the ancestors who made it possible.

In order for students to turn the university into a greater railroad to freedom, Blake recommended embracing a liberal education with enthusiasm.

He believes students need to have high expectations of themselves, set a goal of a 3.5 grade-point average every semester and ask themselves, “What can I do to take advantage of this place?”

Blake conducted a sociological study and found that minority students were happiest with their universities when the professors at that university took responsibility for their students’ failures.

“The faculty has to adjust to the students and the students, in turn, must study diligently,” Blake said.

Blake also expressed his wish for a true “uni-versity,” where the history of each culture is treated equally. However, most colleges are “Euro-versities,” teaching the history of European peoples more prominently than other cultures, Blake said.

“Although this may be Black History Month, the real lesson and message is that you cannot have American history without black history, and you cannot have black history without American history,” he said.

Blake also posed a question to the audience that he said has not yet been answered, but he hopes one day will be, asking, “How do we take the best of a good education and merge it with revolutionary fervor in such a way that two could become a new dynamic and transform society?”

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Speaker hopes to ‘thieve the past’