MILWAUKEE — When Dr. Cedric Burrows got to town about nine years ago, some people, like folks he'd run into at the grocery store, were surprised about his job, he said.
"They didn't think that they actually had Black professors at Marquette. I actually had one person call up their friend to say, hey, they have Black professors," Burrows said.
Burrows, an associate professor of English, teaches literature, rhetoric — like that of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X — and African American culture and social movements.
His book, Rhetorical Crossover, won an award from the National Council of Teachers of English.
Burrows said he appreciates Marquette's recognition of his work, and that of other Black professors at the university. But he also said he hopes for a day when there's enough diversity on faculty that special recognition isn't necessary.
“It should get to the point that not just a handful should be recognized, they should be embraced all the time," he said.
To boost diversity, he said, there should be more African American hires. He also said universities across the country need to make sure they have a welcoming working environment to draw in and retain people of color.
A professor of literature, Burrows naturally shared what he's been reading this Black History Month.
From his backpack, he pulled The Murder of Emmett Till, a graphic novel.
Till's story inspired him to place flowers on the grave of the 14-year-old from Chicago, who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955.
"I need to do that, to recognize them, thank them for their struggle, to make people like me here," said Burrows.
So people after him, he hopes, aren't surprised to learn there's a black professor in town.
"What exactly is it in this system that they think of me as out the ordinary," he said. "This should just be everyday occurrence."