In a society where racial divisions persist, it is imperative that individuals actively engage in and learn about different cultures. Dr. Reinhold Schlieper is a German-born Caucasian bike-riding academic and dedicated member of the African American Cultural Society. He is a shining example of how one person can break barriers and expand their understanding of a people by learning and more importantly appreciating a culture different from their own. Through an interview with Reinhold, I gained insights into his journey of discovery of African American culture and the transformative impact it had on his perspective.

Reinhold’s involvement with the African American community began with a chance encounter with Evelyn Corbin. Evelyn was a fellow member of Reinhold’s church congregation and an early chairperson of the African American Cultural Society Board of Directors. Through their friendship, he learned about the initial opening of the AACS Center here in Palm Coast. Despite his initial reservations about his place within the Black community, Reinhold attended the opening. Being the only white person there, and despite his sense of feeling out of place, he was intrigued by the goals and objectives of the AACS and wanted to become a member.

His interest in African American culture was further nurtured by Bob Brooks, who organized film screenings not available in mainstream theaters. He was captivated by the unique film selections and eventually discovered the sources behind them. That source was a unique CD collection of films that you would not see in theaters. This led him to classify and catalog the films, deepening his understanding of the African American experience. Reinhold’s commitment to the monthly showing of the films at AACS and his admiration for Bob Brooks and his wife Erma fostered a sense of closeness within the African American community.

The educational journey taken by Reinhold played a crucial role in shaping his perspective on race and culture. Born and raised in Germany, Reinhold received his primary education there before moving to the United States. In Germany, the only contact he had with African Americans was with the American soldiers. He attended Texas Christian University during the 1960’s where he received a BA in English and Religion. TCU was a segregated school at the time that Reinhold attended. Recollecting his experiences with racism in Texas he said: “I never understood the feeling of alienation that people who consider themselves white tend to have for the black culture”. Subsequently, he received a doctorate from Ball State University where his dissertation was: “The Metaphysical System Underlying the Prophetic Works of William Blake”.

His work experience includes teaching at Parkersburg Community College in West Virginia, at Al-Fateh University in Libya, and the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He was hired as an associate professor of humanities at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

During his tenure at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University from 1987 to 2014, Reinhold made significant contributions to the academic community. He taught a diverse range of courses, including Introduction to Logic, Computer-Assisted Writing and Technical Writing, Technical Writing with ESL Emphasis, German as a Second Language, World Philosophy, Values and Ethics, Advanced Grammar, and Modern Literature: Science Fiction. Through these teaching assignments, Reinhold fostered critical thinking skills, language proficiency, and an appreciation for various cultures and perspectives.

His dedication to racial justice and equality is not limited to his academic career. Since 2015, he has actively participated in various organizations, holding important positions, and contributing to their missions. Reinhold was elected and served as the financial secretary and parliamentarian of the African American Cultural Society, ensuring the smooth functioning and financial stability of the organization. Additionally, he has been an assistant treasurer for the Flagler County NAACP, working to support their initiatives and goals. Reinhold’s involvement also extended to the Flagler/Volusia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where he served as a board member and president, advocating for civil rights and justice for all people.

Reinhold acknowledges the challenges of promoting inclusivity and maintaining the cultural integrity of the AACS. He understands the importance of identity and the need to create a safe space for African American culture to thrive. Reinhold believes that through outreach programs and inclusive learning initiatives, the AACS will continue to foster understanding and bridge racial divides while it continues its core mission of promoting and preserving African American diaspora culture.

  Ralph Lightfoot