Anton House: From a teenage drug dealer to a doctorate degree holder

by Duke Magazine
Image credit: Journal Times

Anton House is a PhD holder in the United States who bagged his doctorate degree from Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, after serving time in prison for drug peddling.

Living his teenage life in the 1990s, he got caught up with a gangster life associated with every black community in the United States. House was into selling of drugs. According to the Journal Times, House’s mother supplied him with “real drugs” to sell so that he wouldn’t be killed for selling “licked off Lemonheads crushed to look like crack.”

“If you’re going to do it, do it. Don’t play because people will kill you,” House recalled his mother telling him. 

For the fear of getting killed, House at 13 got himself a gun. He did go about wearing bulletproof as a protective guard for himself. House grew up to see the drug dealers around his Racine neighborhood living an affluent life which he dreams of. The boastful flaunting of their gold chains and other aesthetic materials encapsulated his mind into wanting to be like them.

“Seeing this, every kid wanted (that lifestyle),” House told Journal Times. “We identified what represented wealth.”

House is already a known face at age 15 at the juvenile detention center, and who later dropped out of High School at the age of 16. 

In 1998, he got arrested for the possession of cocaine, and which consequently landed him in his jail at age 18. And in 2001 he went back again.

It was in prison and after reading “The Destruction of Black Civilization” by Chancellor Williams that House’s initiative towards emerging a scholar started curling out. Prior to his first encounter with the law, House described himself as being negative with bad influence on his friends, getting them drunk and in effect leading to destruction. “I’d try to corrupt them because I was so miserable myself,” he said.

House proceeded to write a good script with well painted picture of African-American who have since the millennial faced prejudice by taking charge of his life and destiny. This fine tuned mindset evolving from House sparked a voracious interest in him to seek for enlightenment in books, especially books on philosophy, black history, and other eye-opening literatures.

With his keen determination of re-writing the black story, he pushed forward to receive his high school equivalent diploma in prison, and he sought after getting motivation and accountability in the Community Re-entry programme immediately he is out of jail.

He got admitted into the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in 2007 as a full-time student after his rejection from jobs with no work experience and two felonies painting his record black, but later graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in history.

House moved to Washington and gained a master’s degree from Howard, followed by his doctorate in 2019. His dissertation was titled “Toward a Black Economy: William Washington Browne and His Vision of Black Self Reliance, 1881- 1897.”

“I was able to utilize my mind to take me someplace, and that’s what I try to impress on a lot of the boys and girls who come from, not only from Racine but some of the lower socioeconomic communities that I work in,” he said. “Your mind can take you as far as you fill it.”

The former drug dealer hopes to serve as a success model for black teenagers from Racine and across the United States. His paternal lineage were said to have come to Virginia in 1790 as slaves. They were part of the largest mass migration in the history of the nation, the Trail of Sorrow when Africans and African American slaves were forced to walk from the Upper South to the Deep South. 

House’s grandfather was said to have been born in Mississippi in 1921 and moved to Wisconsin in 1951 to leverage on the industrial labor jobs in southeast Wisconsin. 

“In finding my family’s history, I found my place in the world,” House said.

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