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Release Date: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 11:10 AM
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Jo-Ann English
Office of University Communications
Endowed Chair Named After Black Labor Pioneers

Greg Carr, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies, thanks the John and Eula Cleveland family during a ceremony in which the chair is named after the couple.

WASHINGTON (Aug. 10) –The first ever endowed chair in the Department of Afro-American Studies was named Wednesday in honor of two “working folks” who were also pioneers in the fight for better standards of living for black workers in the nation’s capital and across the country.

The John and Eula Cleveland Chair in Black History Studies was established last year with a generous $1.2 million gift from the couple’s estate. The gift will support Afro-American Studies programs and continue Howard’s tradition of educating students in the dynamics of the African-American experience.

“This is an important day for us, as we celebrate a sustaining gift that speaks to the Howard University identity,” President Sidney A. Ribeau said during a ceremony in Howard Hall to honor the couple and recognize their gift. “Times are tough. America is in crisis, and the world is in turmoil, but this gift says ‘keep doing the work that is important to us all.’”

John Cleveland was the first African-American to take over a major union at the local level and the first black man elected vice president of the 1.5 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters. His wife, Eula, was the first black woman to sit on the executive board of a local union.

Together, the Clevelands helped create the Teamsters National Black Caucus, an organization of black Teamster men and women united by their special concerns for rights and conditions of workers. John Cleveland was inducted into the Teamsters Hall of Fame in 2010.

“We are grateful, because the Cleveland Chair is given by a family committed to labor and to education,” said Greg Carr, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies. “This investment in Howard will free us to have conversations taking the form of distinguished lectures, guided research and public presentations.”

Hugh Beins, the attorney representing the Cleveland family, said the dedication and recognition were fitting and will help cement the Clevelands’ legacy for years to come.

“John Cleveland was the Jackie Robinson of the Teamsters Union,” Beins said. 

Joining the Cleveland family for the naming ceremony were Howard University officials (from left) Carr, Nesta H. Bernard, vice president of Development and Alumni Relations; James A. Donaldson, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and President Sidney A. Ribeau.

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