The Frank Toland Historical Society is Tuskegee University’s official history club and provides a network for students (majors and non-majors) to establish collegial relationships with each other, become acquainted with professional development, and discover the rewards and responsibilities that come with the serious study of history.
The organization is student led which gives them an opportunity to explore their unique interests in history with the support of their peers. The history faculty members provide guidance and insight on the tenets of the historical profession as well as exciting career, fellowship, and post-baccalaureate opportunities.
The organization honors the legacy of Frank Toland Sr., who was a long-time anchor of Tuskegee’s history department and a fearless activist for racial equality in Alabama and human rights throughout the world.
Educator and civil rights activist Frank Jefferson Toland, was born on June 1, 1920, in Helena, South Carolina to Fred Toland and Lily Mae Sligh. The period following the Great Depression put a large strain on Toland’s parents and they eventually went their separate ways. After moving to Newberry, South Carolina after the third grade, Toland attended Draden Street High School and graduated as class valedictorian in 1939. After finishing a forty-two week military service beginning in 1942, Toland earned his B.A. in English, history, and political science from South Carolina State University.
While teaching at a school in South Carolina, Toland was then accepted into the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in history. While attending Upenn, Toland was the only African American student in the entire program. After receiving his M.A. in history in 1948, Toland entered the University of Minnesota’s Ph.D program in history.
In 1949, Toland began working in the history department at the Tuskegee Institute (later Tuskegee University). It was at Tuskegee that he met his future wife, Maree N. Morse, who was a Tuskegee Institute graduate. The couple married on August 16, 1950, and later had three children. In 1968, Toland became the chair of the Department of History, a position he held until 1984.
Also in 1968, Toland was unanimously elected as a member of the City Council of Tuskegee. He went on to become the head of the membership committee, the Chairman of the Political Education Committee, and one of the Vice Presidents of the Tuskegee Civic Association. Driven by a passion to change the racial inequality that existed in Alabama, Toland became involved in the NAACP and the Macon County Democratic Club and used his membership on the various committees as a platform to voice his opinions on race relations, especially in regards to the voting rights.