Campus Highlights

Contributing to History

When you love something, keep doing it

A man smiling outside.


icon of a calendarNovember 11, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Kathy Angel

Share this story

For Oakland University Professor De Witt S. Dykes, a love of history has kept him busy, both in and out of the classroom, for more than 52 years.

Dykes came to OU in 1969, thrilled by the opportunity to develop and teach a broad range of courses, including American history, history of American cities, history of American families, black history, history of African American women and more.

“I’ve been fortunate to be at OU where I could have a long career,” says Dykes. “The university has been very supportive, a very good place to work. I’ve enjoyed both the faculty and staff.”

Dykes also enjoys the ongoing relationships with students, some of whom still keep in touch after graduation. A few years ago, he had lunch with a former student who became the head archivist for the state of California.

Outside of the classroom, Dykes crafted two presentations for OU’s History Comes Alive speaker series: “The Underground Railroad: Legend vs. History” — a talk he also shared with the Detroit Historical Society upon invitation from a former student — and “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Fight against Racism, Poverty and War.”

Beyond the university, Dykes has 44 historical articles and nine book chapters to his name. He co-founded the Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society, an organization dedicated to the research and preservation of African-American family history. With similar intent, he co-founded the Michigan Black History Network, whose aim was to promote historical knowledge of African Americans in Michigan. Dykes was also part of exhibit planning committees at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Detroit Historical Museum.

In recent months, Dykes has offered virtual lectures to nine different genealogical and historical organizations. His lectures include “The History of Blacks in Michigan,” “How Africans Became African Americans” and a three-hour talk for the Historical Society of Michigan on African-American genealogy.

“One of the reasons why I like both Oakland University and Detroit is that there is so much intellectual activity at different levels,” says Dykes.

In 2019, Dykes received the Michigan Chronicle’s “Man of Excellence” award, which celebrates local African-American men for their leadership and achievements.

Discover more about the history department’s extraordinary faculty.

Share this story