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On this date in 1853, Inman Edward Page was born. He was a Black educator and academic administrator.
Page was born in Warrenton, Virginia. His parents were slaves on a Virginia plantation. Though accounts vary slightly when Page was 10 years old and a houseboy on the plantation, he and his parents ran through Union lines while soldiers of both the North and South were in the area. The family later moved to Washington, D.C. It was in the nation's capital that Page while earning money as an errand boy, attended a private school. He later spent two years at what is now Howard University. Page was among the first Black students admitted to Brown University; he and classmate George Washington Milford were the first two Black graduates, in the same year. Milton went on to become a lawyer.
Page, who was class valedictorian, was selected to be the class orator for the 1877 commencement. A white man who heard the speech persuaded Page to accept a teaching position at Natchez Seminary in Mississippi. That marked the first in a series of increasingly distinguished educational successes. Page went on to become president of Langston University in Oklahoma for 17 years. He also was president of the Western Baptist College in Macon, Missouri, and of Roger Williams University in Nashville.
In 1918, Brown bestowed upon him an honorary master's degree. Those who knew Page described him as "tall and strong in body," and brilliant in mind, a Black who worked for the noble achievements of others of his race. Later, he was appointed supervising principal of Oklahoma City's separate school system where he stayed for 12 years. About a year before he died, in 1935, he was named principal emeritus in honor of his outstanding contributions to the city's school system. Page's death at age 82 in the home of his daughter, Zelia N. Breaux in Oklahoma City, made banner headlines.
His funeral in Oklahoma City was attended by hundreds of friends, colleagues, and relatives. Later, hundreds of others waited "in the stiff, cold north wind" for his burial on the campus of Langston University. After his death, one newspaper editorial wrote: "Old Man Ike," as his pupils endearingly referred to him, "was a terror to the disobedient and the mischievous, not because of cruel penalties visited upon them but because students abhorred the thought of their idol knowing of their delinquency."
It was this peculiar hold that he had upon youth that wove virtue and strength of character out of the fabric of their lives.
Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century.
Edited by Leon Litwack and August Meier
Copyright 1998, University if Illinois Press