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Thorpe, Earlie Endris

by William S. Powell, 1994

Related Entries: Historically Black Universities and Colleges; Civil Rights; African American

9 Nov. 1924–30 Jan. 1989

Photograph of Dr. Earlie Endris Thorpe holding a copy of his 1971 book, Black Historians- A Critique

Earlie Endris Thorpe, historian and college professor, was born in Durham, the son of Eural Endris and Vina Dean Thorpe. He served in the U.S. Army in the European theater (1944–46) and in 1948 was graduated from North Carolina College, in Durham, from which he received a master's degree the next year. In 1953 he was awarded the Ph.D. degree by Ohio State University; his dissertation was entitled "Negro Historiography in the United States."

Thorpe taught at Stowe Teachers College, St. Louis, Mo. (1951–52), Alabama A. and M. College, Normal (1952–55), and Southern University, Baton Rouge, La. (1955–62). In 1962 he returned to his alma mater, by then North Carolina Central University">North Carolina Central University, where he spent the remainder of his career as chairman of the Department of History and Social Science. He was visiting professor of history at Duke University in 1969–70 and of Afro-American Studies at Harvard University in 1971. Thorpe was the author of Negro Historians in the United States (1958), The Desertion of Man: A Critique of Philosophy of History (1958), The Mind of the Negro: An Intellectual History of Afro-Americans (1961), Eros and Freedom in Southern Life and Thought (1967), The Central Theme of Black History (1969), The Old South: A Psychohistory (1972), African Americans and the Sacred: Spirituals, Slave Religion, and Symbolism (1982), Slave Religion, Spirituals, and C. J. Jung (1983), and A Concise History of North Carolina Central University (1984). He also was editor of the ten-booklet series "The Black Experience in America." Thorpe married Martha Vivian Branch, and they had two daughters, Rita Harrington and Gloria Earl.


Directory of American Scholars-History (1978)

"Historical News and Notices," Journal of Southern History 55 (May 1989)

James A. Page and Jae M. Roh, Selected Black American, African, and Caribbean Authors (1985)

Who's Who among Black Americans (1985)

Additional Resources:

African American History at Ohio State:

American Historical Association:

North Carolina Central University:

Library of Congress, Civil Rights History Project:

Image Credit:

Photograph of Dr. Thorpe courtesy of the NCCU Archives, Records and History Center-James E. Shepard Memorial Library.

Origin - location: 


Dr. Thorpe was the most influential of all of my higher education professors.
He was a brilliant, compassionate, thoughtful and sincere mentor. He had faith in my potential at a time when it really mattered. I do not believe that I could ever thank him enough for his inspiration and support. I dedicated one of my books to him --- he was extraordinary and one of the "best" historians and most provocative intellectuals of all-time. As a student -- none of his classes could be taken without profit. Moreover, I gained his trust and friendship, and am a better human being because of it.

Earl E. Thorpe is deserving of a building being named in his honor on the campus of NCCU. On that score, I shall not retreat.

Al-Tony Gilmore, Ph.D.
Historian Emeritus, National Education Association
Visiting Scholar --The George Washington University

My Grandfather Dr. E.E. Thorpe was a Prince Hall Mason at Shepard Memorial Lodge #840 and member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. just to name a few of his memberships.

I feel so fortunate to have been taught by Dr. E. E. Thorpe as an under grad at NCCU. I sought to take every class he taught. As I pursued an Under graduate degree in history, Dr. Thorpe, and his mentor Dr. Helen G. Edmonds, were my greatest inspirations. I read their works and other books they mentioned in their lectures. I taught History at Darden High School, a Segregated school and Fike High School a desegregated school. All their wisdom continue to be an inspiration.

Thanks for the kind remarks about my Dad. It’s students like you that keep his legacy alive.

Mrs. Doyle
While metal detecting in Arizona I found your dad’s WWII dog tag that I would love to return to your family.
Looking forward to returning this dog tag.
Former Combat Marine, Cpl. Camacho.

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