Date of Award

Fall 12-16-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


African American Studies, Africana Women's Studies, and History

First Advisor

Charmayne E. Patterson, Ph. D.

Second Advisor

Aubrey N. Underwood, Ph. D.


The history of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) has been traditionally discussed using the “top-down” approach, but this oftentimes leads to the omission of the contributions of the many men and women who are essential to the success of these institutions—men like Dr. Joseph James Dennis who served Clark College for forty-seven years. During his tenure, Dennis served as the chairman of the mathematics department, homecoming committee, and institutional representative and President of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC). The purpose of this study is to explore Dennis’ contributions and why Clark College dedicated a building in his honor. This study uses primary and secondary sources to navigate Dennis’ contributions and service. This study suggests that although historical documentation from the administrative lens is vital to posterity, the viewpoints of men and women like Dennis are equally important to the preservation of the HBCU history.