Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Michigan University
Wednesday October 22, 2014

Library Hours: 7:30am - 12:00am

Eastern Michigan University Library

Library Notable Collections

Thomas A. Fleming Collection & Lecture Series


Thomas A. Fleming learned to fight before he could read. After learning to do both equally well, he chose instead to dedicate his life to teaching and learning. Reading became a lifelong passion that fueled his thirst for knowledge, his philosophies on teaching and his attitudes on race and the human condition. The 1992 National Teacher of the Year and EMU alumnus (master of arts in special education in 1968) is sharing that love of learning with future students and generations of scholars by donating his collections to the University.

Ronald Woods, chairman of EMU's Department of African-American Studies, said the Fleming collection is significant for two reasons. First, many of the works are out of print and hard to find. Many others are first editions of classic works with some dating back to the late 19th century. "The collection represents an ordered gathering and collection of intellectual works that cut across the African American intellectual tradition," Wood said. But the collection has a value that transcends its individual pieces, Woods said. "It represents a statement in and of itself: the mind of a 20th century African American educator at work. If you synthesize the pieces, what you see is a mind at work."

Fleming was born poor and fatherless in 1933 in Reading, Pa., Nearly 60 years later, he shared a podium with the President of the United States, who honored him as the best among 2.5 million elementary and secondary public school teachers in America. President Bush presented Fleming with a crystal apple, the traditional symbol of teaching. The ceremony and national spotlight - interviews with Katie Kouric and Bryant Gumbel followed - capped an education career that had the humblest of roots.