By Caitlyn Freeman
Dr. Aris T. Allen, the first African American to serve on the Board of Education (BOE) for Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS), was honored during the meeting of the BOE on Monday, February 25th.
The presentation began with board member Candance C.W. Antwine giving a brief introduction of Allen and his accomplishments. According to Antwine, Allen was appointed to the BOE for AACPS in the 1950s by then-governor Theodore R. McKeldin. She went on to explain the magnitude of Allen’s election due to the racial climate of the time.
“Think about the progressive, forward mindset he and his supporters must have been committed to in order to tell him to ‘go forward; you’ve got this. We have your back.’ Think about where we all would be had they not,” said Antwine. She then went on to state that Allen became the first African American to serve on the Maryland General Assembly.
As a result of technical difficulties, after her introduction, Antwine called upon the members of Allen’s family and members of the Eta Eta Lambda chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, which Allen was a founder of, to speak about Allen.
Allen’s oldest son, Aris T. Allen Jr., was the first to speak on his father’s behalf.
“This is a wonderful tribute to my dad, and it will highlight his legacy and hopefully familiarize people with what he has done, not only in Anne Arundel County but in the state and on the federal levels as well,” said Aris T. Allen Jr.
Anthony Alston, Assistant Regional Superintendent for the North County and Chesapeake feeder systems and member of the Eta Eta Lambda chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, said, “Alpha Alpha has a legacy of strong African American men, who have endured racial, economic, and social hardships and overcame all of them in order to serve the community and change the world from hate to love. Dr. Aris T. Allen, is one of those men.”
According to Alston, Allen, who was born in Beeville, Texas in 1910, managed to overcome poverty, systemic racism, and social inequity to become the chief of staff at a hospital where he was once denied services and then eventually become the first African American to chair the Republican party of Maryland.
Alston went on to explain that Allen, alongside six other men, recognized the need for “a strong bond of brotherhood in the African American community here within Anne Arundel County. They joined together 60 years ago to charter the Eta Eta Lambda chapter in Annapolis, Maryland in order to fill the aims of our fraternity: manly deeds, scholarship, and love for all mankind,” Alston said.
After his remarks, a video, featuring students from the Annapolis High School, Wiley H. Bates Middle School, Central Middle School, and Hillsmere Elementary School, discussing Allen’s legacy was presented.
According to the students in the video, after moving to Washington D.C. as a teenager, Allen graduated from Dunbar High School. He then attended Howard University and completed both his undergraduate and medical study. Allen completed a course of study in medicine from the United States Army specialized training program in 1944 and received his medical degree from Howard University that same year. He then served as an Air Force flight surgeon in the 1950’s.
The video also stated that after completing his residency requirements, he and his wife, Faye Allen, moved to Annapolis and Allen opened a medical practice. He then began advocating for the educational rights of minority youth. In 1955, Allen became the first African American to be a member of the BOE for AACPS where he served on until 1961. He served in the Maryland General Assembly until 1977 when he was asked to head the Maryland Republican party. After years of working on the General Assembly, Allen then became the medical advisor for President Ronald Reagan in 1982. He returned to the House of Delegates in 1991, shortly before his death.
The students also explained that Allen’s service was recognized by the creation of “Aris T. Allen Boulevard,” which connects Forest drive in Annapolis to Route 50.
The video concluded with each student thanking Allen. After, Eric Grannon, a BOE member, remarked on the tribute.
“I think as the students remind us in that video, this should go without saying; I’m sure it does, but we’re honoring Dr. Allen tonight for the content of his character and his unquestionable contributions to our community, not the color of his skin. So we’re proud to make this presentation during Black History Month, but Dr. Allen’s accomplishments could well be celebrated any of the 12 months of the year,” said Grannon.
He then invited Allen’s family, members of the Alpha Alpha fraternity, and any former BOE members who were in attendance to join in a group photo.
The presentation concluded with final remarks from former BOE members. Carlesa R. Finney, former member and President of the BOE for AACPS, explained that she grew up knowing Allen and his wife.
“I’m just very proud, also to say that, having served on this Board of Education, it is so wonderful to know that ten years of service and many years as leadership on the board, was due to a man who had so much courage and more importantly so much love for our community. So thank you all for serving as well and thank you all for honoring Dr. Aris T. Allen and for inviting us to be a part of this,” Finney said.