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Keeping eye on black history

Eva M. Doyle has had her eye on history for the past 30 years as a historian, author and educator.

During that time, she has discovered -- among other little-known trivia -- that there have been three African popes in the history of the Catholic Church, Ludwig Van Beethoven had African roots, and Warren G. Harding may have been the first black president. In fact, her research on the 29th president turned into a book she published last year, as Barack Obama was making his run, and her research on Beethoven was published in 2007.

Known for teaching black history all year long -- not just in February -- she taught prekindergarten through junior high school for 28 years in the Buffalo Public Schools. Retired in 2004, she is now a consultant in black history education for the school system's African-American history program. And since February 1979 -- without ever missing a week -- she has written her column "Eye on History," about African and African-American history. Doyle began writing the column for the Challenger newspaper. The column continues today in the Criterion.

In commemoration of her 30-year journey in print, an exhibit called "Eye on History" is featured at the Frank E. Merriweather Library, 1324 Jefferson Ave., until Feb. 28. The small collection includes photos and copies of articles and books written by Doyle, like "Eye on History," a collection of the most popular articles that have appeared. A special commemorative issue of the book is planned for later this year.

The exhibit has photos of her with Muhammad Ali and boxing promoter Don King. There's also a picture of Louis Farrakhan looking through one of Doyle's books.

What is curious about Doyle's "Eye on History" is that she did not set out to write a column. What happened is that in January 1979, she wrote a few articles about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the response was "so tremendous" that she was asked to write a column.

"I thought I would do it for a short time, [but] it just snowballed. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn," Doyle said.

That has been key to three decades without ever missing a week of being published. The column also has appeared in the Chicago Defender, the Rochester Communicade, the Palm Beach Gazette, as well as Today's African American Chronicle in Chicago.

And over the decades, the column has focused on a variety of topics, including politics, religion, education, economics and health issues.

"There's just so much history. The more I did research and the more I learned about African and African-American history, the more interesting it became to me, and I wanted to learn more," she said. "Every time I look around, almost daily, I learn something new, and to me it's exciting, and it keeps me going. I look forward to continuing to do it."

e-mail: dswilliams@buffnews.com

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