Arthur D. Drayton, professor emeritus of African and African-American Studies (AAAS), died Saturday, May 29th, in Lithonia, Georgia. Drayton was 92 years old.
Dr. Drayton came to the University of Kansas (KU) as the first Langston Hughes Visiting Professor (LHVP), a program started in the Department in honor of the African-American poet, playwright, essayist, and fiction writer who lived in Lawrence from 1903 to 1916. The professorship brought a prominent or emerging minority scholar to the university for one semester each year. The Langston Hughes Professorship has been a valuable vehicle for bringing prominent minority scholars to KU for visiting appointments, as well as for recruiting permanent faculty. After his tenure as the LHVP, Drayton joined AAAS as a faculty member.
A graduate of the University of London, Dr. Drayton specialized in Black Literature, and taught courses such as Introduction to African Literature, Introduction to Caribbean Literature, and African-American Literature at KU. Prior to arriving at KU, he taught at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and the University of the West Indies, Jamaica.
He was the co-editor of Sankofa: Millennial Perspectives on African Literatures and had been the editor of Caribbean Journal of African Studies, Journal of Caribbean Studies, and Caribanthology II: On Justice and Human Rights. He also published in Native Landscapes: An Anthology of Caribbean Short Stories, Black Orpheus, and An Introduction to African Literature, among others.
Dr. Drayton was the recipient of numerous grants and awards including, Department of Education Title VI grants, USIA University Linkage, and KU Phi Beta Delta Faculty Award for Excellence in International Education. He also served as the chair of AAAS from 1981-1996 and as the director of the African Studies Resource Center (now the Kansas African Studies Center). He was the founding president of the Mid-America Alliance for African Studies (MAAAS), and the president of the African Literature Association. He was a co-convener of the African Literature Association Millennial Conference that was held at KU.
Dr. Peter Ukpokodu notes that Professor Arthur Drayton served as chair when the Department had few faculty members, and that he was ingenuous in courting and developing courtesy faculty appointments from many academic departments at KU to offer cross-listed courses related to Africa and the African Diaspora. He also vigorously pursued institutional linkages with universities in Africa that took into consideration the academic wealth of both Anglophone and Francophone countries. Those linkages were crucial to offering a course on Islam for the first time at KU, a course that was cross-listed with the Department of Religious Studies. He added the teaching of Hausa and Wolof to complement Kiswahili as languages taught in the Department to help the unit succeed in Federal Department of Education Title VI grant competitions. Ukpokodu also notes humorously that Professor Drayton was "a party animal who would make Bacchus proud, and at the same time praise Christ for turning water into wine. He made connections and helped the Department survive at a time when its resources were severely limited. He worked very hard for the Department and the Center. For him, the Department was the Center, and the Center was the Department. He conflated both roles with unmatched energy to make them succeed. He will be remembered, with gratitude, in the annals of our Department."
After his retirement from KU in 2000, Dr. Drayton moved, with his wife, Nonyem Nwabuoko Drayton, and their then teenage daughter, Unoma Akamagwuna, to Lithonia, Georgia, to live close to his other adult children--Denise, Arthur Jr., Kenneth, and Roxanne--who now survive him.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 4:00 pm [EST] Friday June 4, 2021, from the chapel of Byrd and Flanigan Funeral Home <https://www.byrdandflanigan.com/obituary/Arthur-Daniel-Drayton>.
The Langston Hughes Center received a $180,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct a June 2017 summer institute for high school teachers, entitled "Teaching the 'Long Hot Summer' of 1967 and Beyond." The project will be led by Shawn Alexander, Clarence Lang, and John Rury.
Teresa Leslie-Canty, AAAS Lecturer and a Topeka High School teacher, nominated by her students in February, won a free Nissan Versa Tuesday night as the KSNT News and Capital City Nissan of Topeka “Teacher of the Year”. Teresa Leslie-Canty was previously the February “Teacher of the Month” after being nominated by 13 of her students.
Professor Jessica Gerschultz has been awarded the prestigious American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellowship for the 2015-16 academic year. The Fellowship is for her book project, Decorative Arts of the Tunisian Ecole: Fabrications of Modernism, Gender, and Class in Tunisia (1948-1972).
African and African-American studies professor Professor Beverly Mack wins inaugural engaged scholarship award
Professor Dorthy Pennington was inducted into the Central States Communication Association Hall of Fame (April 2015)