Eva B. Dykes, Ph.D.
Eva B. Dykes became the first African American woman to complete the requirements for a PhD on March 21, 1921, after successfully defending her 644-page dissertation. Her specialty was in English, Latin, German, and Greek language studies. She used her linguistic skills to promote racial progress with academic works such as The Negro in English Romantic Thought: Or a Study of Sympathy for the Oppressed. She also uplifted everyday people by writing for the Black Christian magazine Message for fifty years. Dr. Dykes was building a brilliant teaching career at Howard University in Washington, D.C., when her faith journey led her to move to Huntsville, Alabama, in 1944. There, at Oakwood College (now Oakwood University), she developed and directed the English Department and founded the world-renowned choral group The Aeolians. Dr. Dykes held her students to the same high standards of excellence that she practiced herself. Yet she won their admiration by encouraging them in practical ways, such as selling Message magazine alongside them to raise educational funds.