Dr. Sterling Stuckey, historian, professor emeritus in the Department of History and author of numerous African American historical research articles, passed away on Aug. 15. As a notable academic, Stuckey held the position of UC Presidential Chair in 1989 where he was selected to endow scholarly research and support campus activities at UC Riverside. After his retirement in 2004, Stuckey went to complete the manuscript for his book “The Chambers of the Soul: Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville and the Blues”, where he compares the significant characters and motifs of Melville’s works to the legacy of Frederick Douglass.
One of his most prominent publications was his groundbreaking article “Through the Prism of Folklore: The Black Ethos in Slavery”, which he wrote in his graduate studies in 1968. His article was celebrated by scholars for incorporating the history of slavery in North America and the West Indies into the overall studies of Africa and African culture. Stuckey’s work allowed researchers to change their approach to field studies of black anthropology and slavery by emphasizing the importance of incorporating black folklore, art and music into the African American culture that exists today.
Stuckey’s studies can be traced to his years of activism and involvement with the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Stuckey worked alongside notable activists such as Sterling Brown and Malcolm X in the Amistad Society, a committee he co-founded and chaired in order to give more recognition to African American history and culture programs. Stuckey’s involvement with the civil rights movement in Chicago while he was concurrently studying his bachelor’s degree, medical degree, and doctorate at Northwestern University propelled his lifelong academic pursuit towards humanitarianism and black civil rights.
Scholars and professors nationwide praised Stuckey for his pioneering work in creating an interdisciplinary study of African American history, specifically his expertise on black nationalism. His most acclaimed novel, “Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America”, was recognized for providing a voice to authors like John Blassingame and Albert Raboteau who were civil rights activists in the 1960s and tried to analyze the slave experience from the perspectives of slaves themselves.
Stuckey’s impact on African American history through his scholastic work has paved the way for new studies of African slavery and its cultural roots in Africa. His ideas about black nationalism earned him many accolades and numerous awards by black scholarly institutions. Stuckey’s research has earned him many accolades and fellowships, including the Distinguished Humanist Achievement award given by the UCR Center for Ideas and Society and the prestigious title of Senior Fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Arrangements for Stuckey’s funeral in Lawndale are currently pending.