African-Americans beat odds, became professors

To an unfamiliar eye, one may think Maurice Johnson, appears to be a student giving a presentation at the front of the classroom, dispensing knowledge to students.

However, this isn’t a student’s presentation. He’s the professor, and the students are taking notes.

Johnson, 29, is walking a path that the majority of African-American males have been reluctant to follow.

Not only has Johnson received a master’s-level education, but he has also returned to the classroom at his alma mater, Florida A&M, to teach as a professor.

According to the National Center for Education and Statistics, only 4 percent of full-time professors in postsecondary institutions are African-American.

Bronte Laurent, a senior public relations student from Richmond, Va., who is one of Johnson’s students, finds this hard to believe.

“I find it beautiful to see a black man accomplish so much at a young age and continue to spread knowledge and wisdom with other young black students,” Laurent said.

The NCES also reported that within the 2009-10 academic school year, 12.5 percent of all master’s degrees in the U.S. went to African-Americans. And of that 12.5 percent, roughly 3 percent were men.

According to the same NCES report,  African-Americans received only about 7 percent of all doctorate degrees awarded, less than half of which were awarded to African-American men.

Albert Lowe is a 31-year-old history professor at the University of Missouri Metropolitan Community College and the  Kansas Community College in Kansas City.

Lowe said as a college professor in his hometown, he’s like the character “Neo” from “The Matrix” trilogy, who is also known as “The One.” Not many people were expecting someone like him to succeed.

“That’s how people view me,” Lowe said.

Johnson is enrolled in a doctoral program for educational leadership, in addition to holding a position as an adjunct professor in the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication.

The world of academia has allowed him the opportunity to support himself and give back to his alma mater through his work, Johnson said.

“Academia keeps you learning,” Johnson said. “If you want to remain relevant, you have to remain current with the new knowledge that’s coming out, and you also have to utilize that old knowledge as well.”

According to the Florida Department of Education, the total number of public school teachers in Florida was 165,404 in 2010.

In the fall of 2010, there were 21,129 African-American teachers in Florida public schools. That is less than 12 percent of public school teachers in the state, both male and female.

Bruce Strouble, 31, an adjunct history professor at FAMU, is pursuing a doctorate degree through an online program at Walden University for public policy administration.

Strouble’s parents met at Howard University, where his mother attended classes while pregnant with him. She was taking history and political science classes, which are Strouble’s two main areas of focus.

According to The Urgency of Now, a non-profit organization, only 47 percent of African-American boys and girls graduate high school in the state of Florida.

Strouble said the economy and other factors have changed the way that college is viewed. Strouble said that if his kids weren’t academically progressive, he would make sure they went to trade school or picked up a skill that they could pursue as a profession.

“I’m going to encourage college, but I won’t force it on them,” Strouble said.

Teaching isn’t just a job to Lowe and the other professors, it’s a lifelong passion.

“This is the one thing I will do until I die,” Lowe said. “I would like to teach literally until I die.”