? African Americans Holding Endowed University Chairs, Chairs of Excellence, or Chaired Professorships (2007)
Historically, the attainment of education for African Americans has been a struggle. As far back as the late 1600s to the mid-1700s, there is some evidence of sporadic, systematic instruction of Africans in colonial America. Prior to 1830, some were even taught to read, write, and, in some instances, perform simple arithmetic. However, between 1830 and 1835, stringent laws were passed prohibiting whites from teaching African Americans to read and write. In spite of these laws though, many individuals struggled to provide informal and formal education to African Americans. In addition, churches and charitable organizations also played an important role in the creation of educational institutions for African Americans in the United States.
EARLY CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY ENDEAVORS
Early attempts to educate African Americans can be traced back to the missionary efforts of Christian churches in the early 1600s. French Catholics in Louisiana were probably the earliest group to provide instruction to African American laborers. Although the primary goal was to convert them to Christianity, the process often involved general education. In addition, the French code noir, a system of laws, made it incumbent upon masters to educate slaves.
Pennsylvania Quakers, who were opposed to the institution of slavery, organized monthly educational meetings for African Americans during the early 1700s, so that they might have the opportunity for improvement. One such Quaker, Anthony Benezet, established an evening school in his home in 1750 that was successful until 1760. In 1774 Quakers in Philadelphia joined together to open a school for African Americans.
The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, organized by the Church of England in 1701 for the purpose of converting African slaves to Christianity, was another organization that provided educational opportunities to African Americans. In 1751 the Society sent Joseph Ottolenghi to convert and educate African Americans in Georgia. Ottolenghi “promised to spare no pains to improve the young children.”
AFRICAN FREE SCHOOLS IN NEW YORK AND PHILADELPHIA
Similar to the churches, the anti-slavery movement played an important part in the creation of schools. In 1787 the Manumission Society founded the New York African Free School; by 1820 more than 500 African American children were enrolled. Support increased as other African Free Schools were established in New York until 1834 when the New York Common Council took over control of the schools.
In the North, there were opportunities for elementary education for African Americans in mostly segregated schools or in schools run in conjunction with African American churches. For example, in 1804 African Episcopalians in Philadelphia organized a school for African American children. In 1848 an African American industrial training school opened in Philadelphia at the House of Industry. Other schools in operation in Philadelphia included the Corn Street Unclassified School (1849), the Holmesburg Unclassified School (1854), and the Home for Colored Children (1859). By the mid-1860s, there were 1,031 pupils in the African American public schools of Philadelphia: 748 in the charity schools; 211 in the benevolent schools, and 331 in private schools. However, high schools in the North were almost inaccessible to African Americans in much of the nineteenth century.
FREEDMEN’S ORGANIZATIONS AND AGENCIES
At the close of the Civil War, hundreds of thousands of newly-freed African Americans were left without homes and adequate resources. As a means for providing temporary assistance to the former slaves, numerous organizations were formed. The American Missionary Association (AMA), established on September 3, 1846, had maintained an interest in African American education before and after the war. The AMA opened its first school for newly-freed slaves on September 17, 1861, at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. Mary S. Peake became the first teacher in an AMA school. The AMA also established a network of elementary schools, normal schools, and colleges throughout the South. In time, however, most of these schools were absorbed into local and state systems of education. Following the AMA’s early efforts, other voluntary and denominational groups responded to the need for freedmen’s aid and sent teachers into the Southern and border states, established elementary schools on plantations, in small towns, and in larger cities in the South. Although most of the schools were to be racially integrated, few whites attended.
The New England Freedmen’s Aid Society, organized in Boston on February 7, 1862, was founded to promote education among free African Americans. Supporters of the organization included Edward Everett Hale, Samuel Cabot, Charles Bernard, William Lloyd Garrison, and William Cullen Bryant. In New York, a similar organization was founded on February 20, 1862, the National Freedmens Relief Association. The Port Royal Relief Committee, later known as the Pennsylvania Freedmens Relief Association, founded in Philadelphia on March 3, 1862, followed this trend. In 1863 several of these organizations merged to form the United States Commission for the Relief of the National Freedmen, which, in 1865, became the American Freedman’s Aid Union.
The federal government responded to the needs of African Americans in the South. During the 1860s, Congress passed several Freedman’s Bureau Acts, creating and financing an agency designed to provide temporary assistance to newly freed slaves. Under the acts, the bureau’s chief functions were to provide food, clothing, and medical supplies. Working in conjunction with various benevolent organizations, Bureau Commissioner General Oliver Otis Howard established and maintained schools and managed to provide for teachers. By 1870 the Freedman’s Bureau operated over 2,600 schools in the South with 3,300 teachers educating 150,000 students; almost 4,000 schools were in operation prior to the abolition of the agency.
INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS IN THE LATE NINETEENTH CENTURY
The education of African Americans has been largely a function of independent schools, private institutions founded to meet the educational and employment needs of African Americans. In the second half of the century, these schools filled the gap until African American land grant colleges were founded in 1890. They also supplied many of the African American teachers in the South.
One of the earliest surviving African American independent schools, Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University), was established in 1881 by an act of the Alabama general assembly. Booker T. Washington, the school’s organizer and first principal, established a curriculum that provided African American students with the means to become economically self-supporting.
Similarly, other independent schools developed around the country. In a lecture room at the Christ Presbyterian Church, Lucy C. Laney opened what would become the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in Savannah, Georgia in 1883. In 1901 Nannie Helen Burroughs founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, D.C. By the end of the first year the school had enrolled 31 students; 25 years later more than 2,000
women had trained at the school. In Sedalia, North Carolina, Charlotte Hawkins Brown founded the Palmer Memorial Institute in 1901.
With only $1.50 and five students, Mary McLeod Bethune founded Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Girls (now Bethune-Cookman College) in 1904 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Nineteen years later, the institute merged with the Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida, founded in 1872 by D.S.B. Darnell. Over 2,000 students now study at Bethune-Cookman College.
EARLY AFRICAN AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION
Lincoln University in Pennsylvania (founded in 1854 as Ashmun Institute) and Wilberforce University (founded in 1856) are often regarded as the oldest of the historically African American institutions of higher education. Wilberforce College, as the latter school was first known, was founded in 1856 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church and named for the English abolitionist William Wilberforce. The school awarded its first degree in 1857. Wilberforce and Lincoln were the first African American colleges to remain in their original location and to develop into degree-granting institutions. The oldest institution in operation today, however, is Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (earlier known as the Institute for Colored Youth and, eventually, Cheyney State College), which was founded in 1837. The primary purpose of these institutions was to train African American youth for service as teachers and ministers.
Between 1865 and 1871, several predominantly African American institutions of higher learning were founded, including Atlanta University (now Clark-Atlanta University), Shaw University and Virginia Union University (1865); Fisk University and Lincoln Institute in Missouri (now Lincoln University) (1866); Talladega College, Augusta Institute (now Morehouse College), Biddle University (now Johnson C. Smith University), Howard University and Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College) (1867); Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) (1868); Tougaloo College (1869); Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University) and Benedict College (1871). Religious organizations were instrumental in the founding and supporting of these early African American institutions. The Freedmen’s Bureau either founded or aided in the development of Howard University, St. Augustine’s College, Lincoln Institute in Missouri, and Storer College (now merged with Virginia Union University). The American Missionary Association founded seven African American colleges; the first of these was Hampton. Other AMA-founded institutions were Atlanta, Fisk, LeMoyne (now LeMoyne-Owen College), Straight (now merged with New Orleans University to become Dillard University), Talladega, Tillotson College (now Huston-Tillotson), and Tougaloo. Benedict College, Shaw University, and Virginia Union were founded and supported by the American Baptist Home Mission Society.
Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University), founded in 1871, was the first African American land grant college. This was made possible under the Morrill Act of 1862, which provided federal land grant funds for higher education. In 1890 Congress passed the second Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant Act of 1890. The second act stipulated that no federal aid was to be provided for the creation or maintenance of any white agricultural and mechanical school unless that state also provided for a similar school for African Americans. As a result, a system of separate, African American land grant institutions developed and became the basis of publicly-supported higher education of African Americans in the South.
African American colleges offered diversity in history, purpose, and curriculums. For example, early in their history, some African American colleges prepared their students for careers in medicine and medical-related fields. Those that prepared students for degrees in dentistry and medicine included Howard University, Meharry Medical College, Shaw University, and New Orleans Medical School. The nation’s only degree program in veterinary medicine among historically African American colleges and universities is still offered at Tuskegee University. Bennett College (founded 1873) and Spelman College (founded 1881) are the only two African American women’s colleges. At first coeducational, Bennett became a women’s two-year college in 1926. Xavier (founded in 1925) is the nation’s only Catholic-supported college for African Americans.
By 1900 there were some 34 African American institutions in the United States for higher education and more than 2,000 African Americans with earned degrees.
Pre-Civil War efforts did not fully address the educational needs and desires of African Americans, especially concerning the freed slaves. Northern philanthropy took up some of the burden of improving African American education. Agencies of the antebellum period aided in educating African Americans through their support of private and sectarian schools before and after the Civil War. By the end of the war, however, the South—the region where African Americans were concentrated—still had not addressed the educational needs of African Americans. Neither the newly-freed slaves nor their children had access to free public education. In 1867, a new type of support for education began when Massachusetts merchant George Peabody established the first educational philanthropy in the country. In his concern for the desolate South, he created the Peabody Education Fund to benefit “elementary education to children of the common people.” The fund later was credited with stimulating states to develop systems of free schools for the races, “creating favorable public opinion to levy tax to support the schools, and stimulating the development of state teachers associations and normal schools.”
So successful was the Peabody effort that in 1882 Connecticut manufacturer John F. Slater, impressed with the developments, created the Slater Fund to uplift the “lately emancipated” people of the South, thus becoming the first philanthropy devoted to the education of African Americans. Through the fund’s efforts, private African American colleges and four-year high schools for African Americans were developed. The Fund stimulated vocational and industrial training and established the idea of county training schools. The Daniel Hand Fund, established in 1888, provided for the education of “needy and indigent” African Americans in the South; it was entrusted to the American Missionary Association. By 1914 the Peabody and Slater funds worked in similar areas; Peabody then transferred its assets to Slater.
Anna T. Jeanes further advanced the education of African Americans by giving $1 million to Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute and Hollis B. Frissell of the Hampton Institute to strengthen rural schools for African Americans in the South in 1907. The gift established the Fund for Rudimentary Schools for Southern Negroes, known as the Jeanes Fund. Initially the Fund supported “industrial teachers” who moved from school to school in the South teaching industrial and utilitarian subjects. The concept was expanded to provide master teachers, known as “Jeanes teachers,” to supervise the African American schools. Later the program added new teaching methods, organized in-service training for teachers, and generally
improved instruction. The program lasted from 1908 until 1968, when counties took over the Jeanes teachers’ work and paid their salaries. Much of the credit for the program was due to Virginia E. Randolph, the first Jeanes teacher. In recognition of her work, the Jeanes teachers established the Virginia Randolph Fund to supplement the Jeanes Fund in 1936.
The Jeanes Fund and the Slater Fund, then working in similar areas, merged in 1937 to form the Southern Education Foundation (SEF). Later that year the Virginia Randolph Fund was incorporated into the SEF. The SEF extended the work of the predecessor funds and ensured that innovative approaches to the education of African Americans continued. From 1937 to 1950, the SEF concentrated on supporting the Jeanes teachers. It also worked with such agencies as the General Education Board (GEB), the Julius Rosenwald Fund, the Carnegie Corporation, and State Agents for Negro Schools. The GEB was a source of support for African American colleges, library collections, and, sometimes, library buildings. It also supported African American teachers and other aspects of education and welfare for African Americans. In its 31-year history, the Julius Rosenwald Fund, established in 1917, helped to build more than 5,000 rural schools for African Americans as a part of regular school systems in 15 Southern states. In various villages and counties, blacks and whites raised additional funds to support these schools. The fund also strengthened African American higher education. Early on, the Carnegie Corporation had provided grants to the Slater
and Jeanes programs. Later, the corporation built African American branches of public libraries in various cities in the South. During the first quarter of the twentieth century, several African American colleges received funds from the Carnegie Corporation and Andrew Carnegie himself to support the erection of library buildings. They included the institutions of Atlanta, Cheyney, Fisk, Howard, Tuskegee, and Wilberforce.
In addition, the SEF worked to prepare the South to resolve racial problems. When the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision was rendered in 1954, bringing about desegregation of public education, the SEF contributed to the decision by conducting studies of African American education in the South largely through support of the Ford Foundation. Its efforts to desegregate public education continued: those Southern states that failed to desegregate higher education were challenged by the lawsuit originally known as Adams v. Richardson. The SEF supported the Legal Defense Fund in litigation and helped dismantle the dual system of public education. It also supported conferences, studies, and publications dealing with desegregation of higher education. Its report Miles to Go, published in 1998, is an example of the SEF’s efforts. The study found that over two decades of efforts to desegregate higher education has left blacks in the South and elsewhere out of pace with whites in undergraduate and graduate school enrollment, rates of graduation, faculty diversity, among other areas.
Located in Atlanta since 1948, the SEF is now a public charity that has several interests including programs to increase the supply of minority teachers in the South and to strengthen African American colleges. The SEF, its predecessor agencies, and other private and public agencies, figure prominently in the history and progress of African American education.
EARLY PROMOTERS OF AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES
From its beginnings, the purpose of African American studies has been to disseminate knowledge about the social, cultural, political, and historical experiences of Africans.
One of the forerunners in the field of African American studies, theologian and educator Reverend Alexander Crummell, along with a group of African American intellectuals, founded the American Negro Academy in Washington, D.C., in 1897. The purpose of the organization was to foster scholarship and promote literature, science, and art, among African Americans. The organization’s members hoped that through the academy, an educated African American elite would shape and direct society. Crummell first conceived the idea of an American Negro Academy while a student at Cambridge University in England. The organization’s founding members included Paul Laurence Dunbar, William Sanders Scarborough, and W.E.B. Du Bois, among other noted educators. Following Crummell’s death in 1908, Du Bois was elected president of the academy.
In September of 1915, Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard Ph.D. graduate, organized the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History). The association’s primary purpose was to promote research, encourage the study of African American history, and to publish material on African American history. In 1916, the organization began publishing the Journal of Negro History, for which Woodson served as editor until his death in 1950.
Other early scholars of African American studies include: sociologist E. Franklin Frazier (1894–1963); John Edward Bruce (1856–1924); Arthur Schomburg (1874–1938), founder of the Negro Society for Historical Research (1911); and Alain Locke (1885–1954), founder of the Associates in Negro Folk Education (1934).
THE END OF LEGAL SEGREGATION IN PUBLIC EDUCATION
In the years that followed the United States Supreme Court’s 1896 ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, segregation in public education became the general practice. Prior to the Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas African American children were often subjected to inferior educational facilities. However, by the 1930s, a string of school desegregation cases reached the Court.
When Lloyd Lionel Gaines, an African American, had been refused admission to the law school of the State University of Missouri in 1936, he applied to state courts for an order to compel admission on the grounds that refusal constituted a denial of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. At that time, the state of Missouri maintained a practice of providing funds for African Americans to attend graduate and professional schools outside of the state, rather than provide facilities itself. The university defended its action by maintaining that Lincoln University, a predominantly African American institution, would eventually establish its own law school, which Gaines could then attend. Until then the state would allow him to exercise the option of pursuing his studies outside the state on a scholarship. Ruling in the case Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada in 1938, the United States Supreme Court ruled that states were required to provide equal educational facilities for African Americans within its borders.
Taking an even greater step, in 1950 the United States Supreme Court ruled that a separate law school for African Americans provided by the state of Texas violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. According to the Court, Herman Marion Sweat’s rights were violated when he was refused admission to the law school of the University of Texas on the grounds that substantially equivalent facilities were already available to African Americans at another Texas school. Ruling in the case Sweatt v. Painter, the Court ruled that the petitioner be admitted to the University of Texas Law School since “in terms of number of the faculty, variety of courses and opportunity for specialization, size of the student body, scope of the
library, availability of law review and similar activities, the University of Texas Law School is superior.”
In 1952, five different cases, all dealing with segregation in public schools, reached the United States Supreme Court. Four of the cases Brown v. Board of Education (out of Kansas), Briggs v. Elliott (out of South Carolina), Davis v. Prince Edward County School Board (out of Virginia), and Gebhart v. Belton (out of Delaware) were considered together; the fifth case Bolling v. Sharpe, coming out of the District of Columbia, was considered separately since the District is not a state.
After hearing initial arguments, the Court found itself unable to reach a decision. In 1953, the Court heard re-argument. Thurgood Marshall, legal consul for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, presented arguments on behalf of the African American students. On May 17, 1954, the Court unanimously ruled that segregation in all public education deprived minority children of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. (In the Bolling case, the Court determined that segregation violated provisions of the Fifth Amendment, since the Fourteenth Amendment is expressly directed to the states.)
AFRICAN AMERICAN COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
Many African American students choose to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); these schools continue to account for a significant number of African American graduates. According to reports from the U.S. Department of Education, fall enrollment at two-year and four-year HBCUs stood at 274,212 students in 1999. In 1964, over 51 percent of all African Americans in college were still enrolled in historically African American colleges and universities. By 1970 the proportion was 28 percent; 16.5 percent by the fall of 1978; and 6.2 percent by 1998. Yet despite the decline in percentages, as recently as 1999–2000, 24 percent of all African Americans
receiving baccalaureate degrees earned them at HBCUs. In 2000, Florida A&M University was the leading producer of African Americans receiving baccalaureate degrees. Between 1991 and 1995, Fisk University was grouped with such large institutions as the University of Michigan, Harvard University, and University of California, Berkeley in the number of African American undergraduates who went on to earn doctorates from the 13 most productive schools. Xavier University in New Orleans has led all colleges and universities in the number of African American students accepted into medical school each year since 1995. The academic and historical significance of HBCUs was honored in 2001 as President George W. Bush proclaimed September 24–30, 2001, National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week.
The racial composition of some African American colleges has changed dramatically; some of these colleges now have a predominantly white student body. Mandated by court order to raise its white population to 50 percent, the enrollment at Tennessee State University in 1998 was about 30 percent white. Those historically African American institutions with predominantly white enrollments by 1998 are Lincoln University in Missouri (72 percent white), Bluefield State College in West Virginia (89 percent white), and West Virginia State University (85 percent white).
For years independent schools have been founded in order to exert greater control, ensure quality in education, and to meet the needs of African American children.
In 1932, in order to promote religious growth in the African American Muslim community, the Nation of Islam founded the University of Islam, an elementary and secondary school to educate African American Muslim children in Detroit. Clara Muhammad, wife of Elijah Muhammad, served as the school’s first instructor. In 1934 a second school was opened in Chicago; by 1965 schools were operating in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. The current system of African American Muslim schools, named for Clara Muhammad, is an outgrowth of the earlier University of Islam. There are currently 38 Sister Clara Muhammad schools in the United States.
Gertrude Wilks and other African American community leaders in East Palo Alto, California, organized the Nairobi Day School, a Saturday school in 1966. In 1969 the school became a full-time school. It closed in 1984.
Also founded as a Saturday school program in 1972, the New Concept Development Center in Chicago set out to create an educational institution which promoted self-respect, cooperation, and an awareness of African American history and culture. In 1975 public school teacher and nurse, Marva Collins founded the Westside Preparatory School in Chicago.
In recent years, the educational and social needs of urban youth, particularly African American males, have been given increased attention. Studies show that nearly 40 percent of adult African American males are functionally illiterate, and that the number of African American males incarcerated far outnumbers the number of African American males in college. Addressing these issues, large urban school systems, including Baltimore, Detroit, and Milwaukee, have attempted to create programs that focus on the needs of African American males.
Although African American students have shown improved performance on achievement tests, gaps between black and white students still exist. Progress has been made in the quality of education for African American children, yet inadequacies remain in the provision of resources for the education of African Americans. In recent years, efforts at creating alternative schools designed to meet the needs of African American children and to reflect the culture and social experiences of African Americans have received increased attention. In 1999 the Institute for Independent Education, an organization providing technical assistance to independent neighborhood schools, reported that an estimated 60,000 African American children attended independent community-based schools in the United States.
An educational methodology that has sparked both widespread praise and criticism is Afrocentrism. Afrocentrism is based, in part, on the belief that the ancient Greeks stole most of their great philosophical and mathematical thought from the Egyptians, an African people, that the Greek philosopher Aristotle gleaned much of his philosophy from books plundered from the Egyptian city of Alexandria, and that the notable Greek philosopher Socrates was black. Afrocentrists claim that the current educational system in America is deeply flawed and promotes white supremacy. It teaches history, arts, science, and other disciplines from a purely traditional European point of view, while African contributions to these fields of endeavor are ignored entirely or given inadequate consideration. Proponents of Afrocentrism theorize that teaching African American children from an African-centered perspective through the championing of black culture, history, and achievement will increase their feelings of self-worth and give them a greater sense of identity and ethnic pride.
The doctrine of Afrocentrism is not a new phenomenon. Such notable early twentieth century African Americans as activist Marcus Garvey and scholar Carter G. Woodson were among its most ardent supporters. Today, Afrocentrism is championed by African American scholars including, most prominently, Molefi K. Asante. Others include Leonard Jeffries, Asa Hillard, and, until his death, John Henrik Clark. Some public school systems with predominantly African American enrollment, such as Atlanta, New Orleans, Cleveland, Indianapolis, New York, Oakland, and Philadelphia have introduced African-centered principles into their curriculums.
Afrocentrism is not without its critics, however. Among them is Mary Lefkowitz, a professor of humanities at Wellesley College. In her book Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History (1996), Lefkowitz disagrees with the assertions of Afrocentrists that the Greeks stole their philosophical and mathematical thought from the Egyptians or that Socrates was black. She argues that Afrocentrist beliefs are based on myth and conjecture, not historical fact, and are designed to promote a political agenda. This criticism is echoed by Arthur Schlesinger, author of The Disuniting of America (1991). Schlesinger remarks that African-centered education is divisive, un-American, and promotes the teaching of inaccuracy and distorted history.
Whether one is a supporter or critic, it is clear that Afrocentrism will continue to inspire heated debate for many years to come.
EBONICS VS. STANDARD ENGLISH
Black English, considered by most linguists to be a dialectal form of English (that is, a dialect like, to pick just one example, Appalachian English), came to the forefront of discussion in 1996. The African languages that slaves brought to the United States influenced their learning and use of English. While Black English has been studied since the first half of the twentieth century, in 1996 some scholars renamed it Ebonics—a combination of the words “ebony” and “phonics.” In the 1960s and 1970s it was called Black Vernacular English (BVE); in the 1980s and 1990s it was known as African American Vernacular English (AAVE). It shares many basic characteristics with other dialects, the most important being distinct grammar and syntax patterns (dialects are learnable precisely because they are “rule based” in this sense). When the Oakland, California, school board passed a resolution in 1996 to make Ebonics “a second language” and declared that all of the teachers in the system should be trained in its grammar (and to respect it as the native form of speech spoken by many of their African American students), a storm of criticism followed nationally. Opponents contended that Black English was simply substandard grammar and, if regarded as a legitimate language, would be detrimental to African American students. As national attention spotlighted the controversy, in May 1997 the school board reaffirmed what it called its original intention: “to improve the English language acquisition and application skills of African-American students” and, as much as possible, to help students master Standard English. According to John and Russell Rickford in The Spoken Soul, the board never intended to replace Standard or mainstream English with Ebonics or any other “language” or dialect peculiar to any racial or ethnic group. In 1997 the U.S. Congress supported Oakland’s efforts by awarding the district $1 million to continue research on the linguistic and cultural resources of African American students. The perspective that The Spoken Soul embraces is that Black English is not only “the language of jazz, funk, hip-hop, and rap,” all currently popular in American culture, but is also the home dialect of many African Americans. Educators need to be aware of how and what their students actually speak in order to teach them additional, standard forms.
ABANDONING AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
National debate, lawsuits, and voter reaction over the issue of affirmative action has impacted the education of African American students. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s validation of the use of race as a factor in college and university admissions programs in the case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), many race-conscious admissions policies have come under attack in courts of law. Recent decisions in federal courts cloud the issue, and may lead to another Supreme Court review of affirmative action policies at institutions of higher learning. In 2001, a decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Johnson v. Board of Regents of the University of Georgia struck down the race-conscious admissions policy for freshmen at the University of Georgia. The decision mirrored a 1996 Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that invalidated a similar policy at the University of Texas Law School. On the other hand, the affirmative action admissions policy at the University of Michigan Law School was upheld by a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in May 2002.
In a number of states, voter initiatives and executive action have dealt race-conscious admissions policies more setbacks. Voters in California passed Proposition 209 in 1996. The law banned the use of race as a consideration for acceptance to the state’s universities. Washington voters passed a similar measure, Initiative 200, in 1998, and Jeb Bush, governor of Florida, instituted the “One Florida Initiative” in 2000. The effects of such measures can be severe in the drop in enrollment of African American students at state institutions of higher learning. A 2002 NAACP Education Department report, “NAACP Call for Action in Education,” points out that following the passage of California’s Proposition 209, only one African American student enrolled in a class of more than 300 at the University of California, Berkeley’s school of law in 1999. The same year, only two black students were among the entering law school class at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Advocates of race-conscious admission policies, Derek Bok and William G. Bowen, completed a major study that challenges much of the conservative thinking about affirmative action. In their findings, published in the book The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions (1998), the two scholars studied race-conscious admissions in elite higher education and confirmed that such practices “create the backbone of the black middle class.”
Some mainstream institutions have seen a decrease in the number of black students enrolled and responded by developing plans to rebuild that enrollment. That was seen, for example, in Kentucky, where over a third of college-bound African American students chose the University of Louisville over the University of Kentucky. This caused some state lawmakers and faculty at the University of Kentucky to question the university’s commitment to diversity. The university responded by adding a scholarship program to increase diversity on campus. The City University of New York (CUNY) launched a systemwide African American Male Initiative aimed “to improve the success and retention of the Black men on its 11 senior-college campuses.” Similar initiatives followed in the University System of Georgia and elsewhere. Although affirmative action organizations stifle such programs, the initiatives are viewed many leaders as well-intentioned.
VOUCHER SYSTEMS AND CHARTER SCHOOLS
Some educators regard voucher programs and charter schools as “logical parts of a broad educational mix.” The voucher idea originated 40 years ago; it aimed to permit students to transfer from failing public schools to successful private schools. Critics feared, however, that the brightest students, both black and white, would be drawn away, leaving the inner-city schools, in terms of characteristics, African American and poor. They also raised questions about the use of public funds in private institutions, particularly those maintained and operated by churches or religious organizations. Voucher systems have been initiated in a handful of cities, including Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Detroit, and are being considered in about half of the 50 states. The voucher programs that are operational serve low-income, largely African American and Hispanic American children. In July 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court validated the constitutionality of Ohio’s voucher program, opening the door for the wider use of school voucher programs throughout the nation.
Charter schools, or independent public schools, may be established by parents, community groups, local or state school boards, colleges and universities, or other individuals or groups. Some charter schools were once private schools, others were converted from existing public schools, and still others are newly established educational institutions. Generally, the schools report directly to the state and bypass local unions or other traditional bureaucracy. They are schools of choice for students and teachers; therefore, they must operate with the highest regard for equity and academic excellence. Supporters have little faith in traditional education systems and look to the charter schools as a viable solution to the problems of public school education. They see charter schools as a means of providing inner-city children the kind of education that students receive in the affluent suburbs. Some educators and parents see the charter school movement as another threat to public school education. By 2001, however, 37 states and the District of Columbia had passed charter school laws.
SINGLE-GENDER SCHOOLS AND RACE-BASED ENROLLMENT
The nation has seen a number of single-gender schools opened in recent years. One such school opened in the fall of 1996, when the Young Women’s Leadership School, an experimental public school for girls, opened in East Harlem. It emphasizes mathematics and science, subjects in which girls often lag behind boys in performance. The school originally provided for 56 seventh-grade girls, and had expanded to 360 students in grades 7–12 by the year 2000. Advocates of the school based the need on studies that showed that girls, particularly from poor communities, performed better when boys were not present. Some groups, such as the New York Civil Liberties Union, challenged the school, however, arguing that it would violate the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Federal statutory law. The group has challenged plans for other single-gender, single-race schools for young African American men in New York, Detroit, and Milwaukee.
Nearly a half-century after Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, segregated public schools continue. Evidence of racial isolation in urban schools, as seen in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1997, led the state’s highest court to issue a mandate to desegregate the schools. Under the order, racially isolated students in urban schools are able to enroll in predominantly white suburban schools on a space-available plan. The Connecticut decision seems to be running counter to the current trend to abandon racial “quotas” in schools, where predominance of one race is not necessarily grounds for legal relief unless the cause lies in segregation patterns of the past. The concern over affirmative action, however, is shifting from colleges and universities to public school districts. Districts that adopted voluntary desegregation plans, such as those in Montgomery County, Maryland, and Arlington, Virginia, wonder if they can continue race-conscious policies.
Desegregation orders imposed by the courts decades earlier are being lifted. In such cities as Nashville, Tennessee; Oklahoma City; Denver; Wilmington, Delaware; Cleveland; and in 2007 in Little Rock, courts have declared that past segregation practices have been remedied and judicial monitoring is no longer needed. A U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 28, 2007, struck down school integration plans in Louisville and Seattle, halting enrollment in public schools based on race.
AFRICAN AMERICAN LEADERSHIP INITIATIVES
A growing trend in education is a focus on leadership programs, whether or not they are gender-based. The North Carolina Community College System recently held a Conference on African American Males in Education as the community’s response to the African-American male’s success in post-secondary education. Historically Black Colleges and Universities have become more concerned about leadership training for their administrators. One HBCU, Hampton University, has offered leadership training for seven years by sponsoring an executive leadership summit called “On the Road to the Presidency.” That program is designed for newly-appointed college presidents and chancellors, provosts, vice presidents, deans, and others in executive posts. Other leadership training programs have been held or are operational at such HBCUs as Bennett College for Women, Fisk University, and Morehouse College.
(To locate biographical profiles more readily, please consult the index at the back of the book.)
MOLEFI K. ASANTE (1942– ) Scholar
Molefi Kete Asante was born Arthur Lee Smith Jr. on August 14, 1942, in Valdosta, Georgia. His name was legally changed to Molefi Kete Asante in 1973. In 1962, Asante graduated with an associate’s degree from Southwestern Christian College. He graduated cum laude with a B.A. from Oklahoma Christian College in 1964, received an M.A. from Pepperdine University in 1965, and a Ph.D. from UCLA in 1968.
Asante has taught speech and communications at many universities in the United States. He was an instructor at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona (1966– 1967) and California State University at Northridge (1967). In 1968 he accepted an assistant professorship at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, where he remained until 1969 when he began teaching at UCLA. There he advanced from assistant to associate professor of speech and also served as the director of the Center for Afro-American Studies (1970–1973). In 1973 he accepted the position of professor of communications at the State University of New York. He soon became department chairman, a position he held until 1979 when he became a visiting professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C. (1979–1980). In 1981 and 1982, he was a Fulbright professor at the Zimbabwe Institute of Mass Communications. Since 1980, he has been a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia in the Department of African American Studies.
Asante is a prolific author with over 33 books dealing with both communication theory and the African American experience. Some of his titles include: Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change (1980); African Culture: The Rhythms of Unity (1985); The Afrocentric Idea (1987); Afrocentricity (1987); Kemet, Afrocentricity and Knowledge (1990); The Historical and Cultural Atlas of African-Americans (1991); Colored, on White Campus: The Education of a Racial World (1992); Fury in the Wilderness (1993); African American History: A Journey of Liberation (1995); African Intellectual Heritage: A Book of Sources (1996); The African-American Atlas: Black History and Culture (1998); The African American Book of Names and Their Meanings (1999); The Painful Demise of Eurocentrism: An Afrocentric Response to Critics (1999); The Egyptian Philosophers: Ancient African Voices from Imhotep to Akhenaten (2000); and (co-editor with Eungjun Min) Socio-Cultural Conflict Between African American and Korean American (2000); Erasing Racism (2003), Race, Rhetoric, & Identity (2005), The History of Africa (2007).
Asante is also a founding editor of the Journal of Black Studies and has been a member of the advisory board of the Black Law Journal (1971–1973) and Race Relations Abstract (1973–1977). Asante has also served as the vice president for the National Council of Black Studies and the African Heritage Studies Association.
HOUSTON BAKER. SEELITERATURE CHAPTER.
MARIA LOUISE BALDWIN (1856–1922) Educator
Born on September 13, 1856, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Maria Louise Baldwin was one of the most distinguished educators in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. She was the principal of the Agassiz school in Cambridge, where children of affluent and established white families attended—a rarity for a woman and an African American.
Educated in Cambridge, Baldwin taught first in Chestertown, Maryland, and then was appointed teacher in Agassiz Grammar School. Eventually she taught all grades in the school—from first to the seventh—and in 1889 was promoted to school principal. In 1916, a new school was erected with more grades added and Baldwin’s position was changed to master. She strengthened her credentials by enrolling in courses at nearby Harvard University. She remained at Agassiz until 1922.
Baldwin lectured throughout the country on such luminaries as Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson and on women’s suffrage, poetry, and history. During one of her lectures, she collapsed at Boston’s Copley Plaza Hotel on January 9, 1922, and died suddenly. The entire nation mourned her death. About a year later, Aggasiz school recognized her by unveiling a tablet created in her memory. Other memorials followed, including the naming in her honor of the Aggasiz school auditorium and a women’s residence center at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
LERONE BENNETT JR. (1928– ) Scholar
Born on October 17, 1928, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Lerone Bennett Jr. was educated at Morehouse College, receiving an A.B. in 1949. Bennett worked for the Atlanta Daily World, and Jet magazine before joining Ebony magazine in 1954. He was named executive editor in 1987. Beyond these positions though, Bennett has achieved fame for his essays and other writings.
His 1962 book Before the Mayflower: A History of the Negro in America made him one of the best-known and most influential African American historians of the twentieth century. Before the Mayflower was revised in 1982 and has been reprinted several times. Bennett’s 1964 biography of Morehouse College classmate Martin Luther King Jr., What Manner of Man, was welcomed as an evenhanded analysis of the African American leader’s life and his role in fundamentally changing the nature of racial dynamics in the United States. Also in 1964, Bennett published The Negro Mood and Other Essays, a collection of essays that demonstrated a sharper editorial bite than his previous works. Probing such issues as the failed integration of African Americans into American life and the ways in which African Americans are denied the fruits of society, Bennett takes aim at the white liberal establishment for ignoring the accomplishments of African Americans and for just mouthing the words of racial justice rather acting on that creed. Bennett has also produced a number of other works including Pioneers in Protest (1968), The Shaping of Black America (1974), and Wade in the Water: Great Moments in Black History (1979).
Bennett served as a visiting professor at Northwestern University in 1968–1969. In addition, he was a senior fellow of the Institute of the Black World in 1969. In 2002 Bennett won an American Book Award for lifetime achievement from the American Book Association.
MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE (1875–1955) Founder, Educator
Born on July 10, 1875, near Mayesville, South Carolina, Mary McLeod received a sporadic education in local schools. She eventually received a scholarship and studied for seven years at the Scotia Seminary in Concord, North Carolina. In 1893 she went on to study at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in lieu of a missionary position in Africa. In 1895 she began teaching at the Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia. Between 1900 and 1904, she taught in Sumter, Georgia, and Palatka, Florida.
In 1904 she founded her own school in Daytona Beach, Florida—the Daytona Educational and Industrial School for Negro Girls. John D. Rockefeller became an early admirer and supporter of the school after hearing a performance by its choir. Bethune went on to found the Tomoka Missions and, in 1911, the McLeod Hospital. In 1922 her school merged with the Cookman Institute to become Bethune-Cookman College.
Bethune’s work received national attention, and she served on two conferences under President Herbert Hoover. In 1936 President Franklin Roosevelt appointed her director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. During World War II, she served as special assistant to the Secretary of War, responsible for selecting WAC officer candidates of African American descent.
Bethune also served on the executive board of the National Urban League and was a vice president of the NAACP. She received the Spingarn Award in 1935, the Frances A. Drexel Award in 1936, and the Thomas Jefferson Medal in 1942. Bethune was also instrumental in the founding of the National Council of Negro Women. She retired from public life in 1950 on her 75th birthday and died five years later on May 18, 1955.
Much of Bethune’s philosophy concerned ennobling labor and empowering African Americans to achieve economic independence. Although a tireless fighter for equality, she eschewed rhetorical militancy in favor of a doctrine of universal love.
CHARLOTTE HAWKINS BROWN (1883–1961) School Founder, Educator, Civic Leader
Charlotte Hawkins Brown was a pioneer in quality preparatory education for African American youth. She set her ideas and experiments in place at the Palmer Memorial Institute, which she founded in Sedalia, North Carolina, and headed for more than half a century.
Born Lottie Hawkins on June 11, 1883, in Henderson, North Carolina, Hawkins was the granddaughter of slaves. She and 18 members of her family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1888 in search of better social and educational opportunities. By the time of her graduation from Cambridge English School, she had changed her name to Charlotte Eugenia Hawkins. In 1900 she enrolled in State Normal School in Salem, Massachusetts, and left in October 1901, to teach at the American Missionary Association’s Bethany Institute near McLeansville, North Carolina. The school closed at the end of the year. Hawkins returned to Cambridge in 1902 and discussed with benefactor Alice Freeman Palmer, whom she met at the end of her high school studies, her plan to start a school in Sedalia, North Carolina. Palmer and other Northern philanthropists provided Hawkins funds for the school and on October 10, 1902, Hawkins founded a school, the Alice Freeman Palmer Institute, which she named in honor of her friend. After Palmer died that fall, the school was renamed Palmer Memorial Institute and was incorporated on November 23, 1907. By then Hawkins had a diploma from Salem Normal School, had studied at Harvard University and Wellesley and Simmons colleges, and married Edward Sumner Brown.
By 1916, the school was housed in four buildings. Fires in 1917 and 1922 destroyed two buildings; one of these, Memorial Hall, was replaced in 1922 with the Alice Freeman Palmer Building. By 1922 the school had built a fine reputation as one of the country’s leading preparatory schools for African Americans. The junior college academic program that focused on agricultural and vocational training that Brown introduced in the mid-1920s gave way to secondary and post-secondary education. Later on the school also emphasized good manners and social graces as it prepared youth to assume positions in
society. The school’s presence, already felt strongly in the South, was now known across the country and students responded by enrolling in the institute in greater numbers. In 1922, Palmer graduated its first high school class.
Brown emerged as a national leader and was recognized for her work in directing the institute as well as her strong resolve in advancing the life of African Americans and African American women in particular. She was a staunch public opponent of lynching. She was an organizer of the North Carolina State Federation of Negro Women’s Clubs and was also active in the National African American Women’s Club Movement. She persuaded the state to establish homes for African American young women who were in legal difficulty, such as the Efland Home for Wayward Girls. As president of the North Carolina Teachers Association from 1935 to 1937, she helped effect change in the education of the state’s African American residents. She was a key figure in the Southern interracial women’s movement and also was the first African American member in the Twentieth Century Club of Boston.
Brown became known for her writings as well. Her works included Mammy: An Appeal to the Heart of the South (1919) and The Correct Thing to Do, to Say, and to Wear (1940). The latter work, originally used as a guide for Palmer’s students, attracted the attention of young people across the country and was reprinted five times.
After 50 years of service, Brown retired as president of Palmer on October 5, 1952, but remained on campus until 1955 as vice-chairman of the board of trustees and director of finances. Wilhelmina Marguerite Crosson replaced
Brown as president. By the end of the decade, the school enrolled annually about 200 junior and senior students who came from across the country, the Caribbean, and Africa.
Brown died in Greensboro on January 11, 1961, and was buried at the front of the Palmer campus. Although Brown’s spirit and ideals continued for a while, the school began to suffer from declining enrollment, the rising cost of maintenance, and reduced support from benefactors. Another fire in 1971 destroyed the Alice Freeman Palmer Building. In November of that year, Bennett College in nearby Greensboro assumed the institute’s debts and took over the site. The home that Brown had built on campus, Canary Cottage, has been preserved and, in 1983, was declared a state historic site. It was declared a national historic landmark in 1988. The institute’s campus was designated a state historic site in the previous year.
NANNIE HELEN BURROUGHS (1879–1961) Educator
Born in Orange Springs, Virginia, on May 2, 1879, Nannie Helen Burroughs was one of the most significant Baptist lay leaders of the twentieth century, a lifelong booster of women’s education, and a tireless civic organizer. She addressed the National Baptist Convention in Virginia in 1900 on the subject “How the Sisters are Hindered from Helping” and, from that time until her death more than 60 years later, she exercised pivotal leadership. She was elected corresponding secretary for the Woman’s Convention, Auxiliary to the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., and in 1948 she became president of the Women’s Convention.
In 1901 Burroughs founded and presided over the National Training School for Women and Girls, which emphasized industrial arts and proficiency in African American history. After only one year, she had recruited 31 students. In honor of her efforts, the school’s curriculum was changed to accommodate elementary education, and its name was changed to the Nannie Helen Burroughs School.
Burroughs was active in the anti-lynching campaign and a life member of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. She helped organize the Women’s Industrial Club of Louisville and was responsible for organizing Washington, D.C.’s first African American self-help program. She also edited such periodicals as the Christian Banner and was the author of Roll Call of Bible Women. She died on May 20, 1961.
JOE CLARK (1939– ) Former Educator, Lecturer, Executive Director
Best known as the feisty, dedicated, baseball bat-wielding school principal portrayed by actor Morgan Freeman in the film Lean on Me, Clark has served as an exemplar of school discipline and boasts a distinguished record of achievements and laurels. A 14-year member of the New Jersey Board of Education and an elementary and secondary school principal until 1989, he has been honored by the White House, the NAACP, his alma mater Seton Hall University, and various newspapers and magazines.
Born in Rochelle, Georgia, in 1939, Clark served in the United States Army Reserve from 1958 to 1966. He received a B.A. from New Jersey’s William Paterson College in 1960 and his master’s degree from Seton Hall in 1974. From 1960 to 1974, Clark served on the board of education in Paterson, New Jersey. He was a coordinator of language arts from 1976 until 1979. Clark became a school principal for the first time in 1979 and quickly earned the admiration and respect of educators for his somewhat controversial, no-nonsense managerial style. In 1983, Clark received the NAACP Community Service Award and was named New Jerseyan of the Year by the Newark Star Ledger. The following year, New Jersey Monthly honored Clark as outstanding educator. In 1985, Clark appeared in Washington, D.C., to receive honors at a presidential conference on academic and disciplinary excellence and also gained awards from Seton
Hall and Farleigh Dickinson University. The National School Safety Center gave Clark the Principal of Leadership award in 1986, and the National Black Policemen’s Association bestowed their Humanitarian Award upon him in 1988.
In 1989, Clark ended his tenure as principal of East-side High School in Paterson, New Jersey, and traveled the country as a lecturer. He accepted a job as the director of the Essex County, New Jersey, Youth House, a juvenile detention center in Newark, in August of 1995.
KENNETH CLARK (1914–2005 ) Psychologist, Educator, Writer
Born on July 24, 1914, in the Panama Canal Zone, Clark was brought to the United States as a youth by his mother so that he could be educated. He was educated in Harlem and then attended Howard University. He was awarded a B.A. in 1935 and an M.S. in 1936 in psychology. In 1940 he became the first African American awarded a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University. He then taught at the Hampton Institute, but left due to its conservative views, moving to City College of New York in 1942, an institution he was to remain at for the rest of his academic career.
Clark was deeply troubled by school segregation and studied its effects with his wife, the former Mamie Phipps. Clark came to the attention of the NAACP during its post-war campaign to overturn legalized segregation. Clark was intimately involved in the long legal struggle which culminated in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. He testified as an expert witness at three of the four cases leading up to the Supreme Court’s review of Brown v. Board of Education and his report on the psychology of segregation was read carefully by the justices. Brown v. Board of Education was not only a milestone in the modern Civil Rights movement, it also made Kenneth Clark into something of an academic superstar. Clark went on to become the most influential African American social scientist of his generation.
In the 1960s Clark was involved with the Great Society’s unsuccessful HARYOU program in New York and the MARC Corp.’s program in Washington, D.C. Both were efforts to improve integration of public schools and to set test score-based standards for schools and teachers. Both projects, however, were terminated by politics.
In 1975 Clark retired from CCNY and formed his own advisory company to counsel companies on integrating their workforces. Clark continued to write vehemently on the subject of integration, until he died on May 1, 2005.
SEPTIMA CLARK (1898–1987) Educator, Civil Rights Activist
In her unassuming, workmanlike way, Septima Clark made a major impact on the voting rights of thousands of African American Southerners, though many Americans have never heard of her. Clark dedicated her life to education and drove home through her actions a simple concept in which she believed, namely, that before one could get people to register and vote, one had to teach them to read and write. Born on May 3, 1898, in Charleston, South Carolina, Clark was a schoolteacher for most of her life. She dedicated her entire career to educating her community.
In 1937 Clark studied under W. E. B. Du Bois at Atlanta University. She later went on to receive her B.A. at Benedict College in 1942, and her M.A. from Hampton Institute four years later. After teaching for nearly ten years in the Charleston school system, Clark began the “citizenship schools” program, through her position at Tennessee’s Highlander Folk School, a center for civil organizing and dialogue in 1956. These citizenship schools taught people to write their names, balance check books, fill out a voting ballot, and understand their rights and duties as U.S. citizens. The schools were a success, and by 1961, had grown too big for Highlander to handle. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) expressed an interest in taking over, so Clark went to work for the SCLC as director of education.
After retiring from the SCLC in 1970, Clark stayed active in civil rights struggles. In 1974, at the age of 76, Clark was elected to serve on the Charleston school board—the same school board that had fired her 20 years earlier for her active involvement with the NAACP. She died in Charleston on December 15, 1987.
JOHNNETTA B. COLE (1936– ) College President
A distinguished scholar, Johnnetta Cole has served on the faculties of Washington State University, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Hunter College, and Spelman College, the historically African American women’s institution in Atlanta. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, on October 19, 1936, Cole attended Oberlin College, which awarded her a B.A. in 1957. She went on to earn her master’s and doctorate degrees at Northwestern in 1959 and 1967, respectively.
In 1967, Cole began her first teaching assignment at Washington State University, where she taught anthropology and served as director of black studies. The university honored her as Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year for 1969–1970. From 1970 until 1983, Cole was professor of anthropology and African American studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She left the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1983 for a position as professor of anthropology at Hunter College of the City of New York. Cole also served as director of Latin American and Caribbean studies at Hunter College from 1984 until 1987. In 1987, Cole was named president of Spelman College and became known as America’s Sister President. She retired in 1997 and took a professorship at Emory University in Atlanta. In 2002 she again became president of an historically black college, Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina. She announced her retirement from the presidency of Bennett effective June 2007.
As an anthropologist, Cole has done field work in Liberia, Cuba, and in the African American community. A prolific writer, she has published in many mainstream periodicals as well as scholarly journals. Since 1979 she has been a contributor and advising editor to The Black Scholar. She is the author of Conversations: Straight Talk with America’s Sister President (1993) and Dream the Boldest Dreams: And Other Lessons of Life (1997). She is a member of the National Council of Negro Women and a fellow of the American Anthropological Association.
Cole has received numerous awards and over 40 honorary degrees. She was presented with the Elizabeth Boyer Award in 1988 and the Essence Award in Education in 1989. In 1990, Cole won the American Women Award, the Jessie Bernard Wise Woman Award, and was inducted into the Working Woman Hall of Fame. In 1994, she received the Jewish National Fund’s highest honor, the Tree of Life Award, which is named for the efforts of the Jewish National Fund to reclaim and develop barren land in Israel. She received the Smithsonian’s McGovern Behavioral Science Award in 1999. In 2001 she received the Alex de Tocqueville Award for community service from United Way of America. Cole received the Independent Sector’s 2006 John W. Gardner Leadership Award for her long commitment to advancing social justice nationally and globally.
MARVA DELORES NETTLES COLLINS (1936– ) Educator
Marva Delores Nettles Collins was born in Monroeville, Alabama, on August 31, 1936. She received a bachelor’s degree from Clark College in 1957 and pursued graduate studies at Chicago Teachers College and Columbia University from 1965 until 1967.
Collins’ teaching career began at the Monroe County Training School in her hometown in 1958. She taught at Chicago’s Delano Elementary School from 1960 until 1975. In 1975, Collins founded the Westside Preparatory School in Chicago and currently serves as its director.
Collins has conducted educational workshops throughout the United States and Europe, and has appeared on several television programs including 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, and The Phil Donahue Show. She has served as director of the Right to Read Foundation and has been a member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships since 1981. Collins has also been a consultant to the National Department of Children, Youth, and Family Services and a council member of the National Institute of Health.
A number of organizations have honored Collins for her distinguished career including the NAACP, the Reading Reform Foundation, the Fred Hampton Foundation,
the Chicago Urban League, the United Negro College Fund, Phi Delta Kappa, and the American Institute for Public Service. Among the institutions that have given her honorary degrees are Washington University, Amherst College, Dartmouth University, Chicago State University, Howard University, and Central State University.
ANNA JULIA COOPER (1858/59–1964) Educator, Writer, Activist
Anna Julia Cooper was a strong proponent of justice, equality for women, and racial uplift. She was born on August 10, 1858 or 1859, in Raleigh, North Carolina, to a slave mother; her father was possibly the slave owner. Cooper attended Saint Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute (now Saint Augustine’s College) in Raleigh and became a teacher at the school when she graduated. She was married briefly to George A. C. Cooper, who died in 1879.
Cooper graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1884, then taught modern languages at Wilberforce University in 1884–1885. The next year she returned to Saint Augustine’s and taught mathematics, Latin, and German. In 1888 she received an M.A. degree in mathematics from Oberlin and moved to Washington, D.C., where she taught at the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth and was school principal from 1902 to 1906. The school later became the M Street High School, then the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. She protested the board of education’s plan to dilute the school’s curriculum and was removed from the principalship. She chaired the languages department at Lincoln University in Missouri from 1906 to 1910, then returned to the M Street School as Latin teacher. On March 23, 1925, at age 66, she successfully defended her doctoral dissertation at the Sorbonne and became the fourth African American woman to earn a doctorate and the first woman to do so in France.
Cooper also became established as a lecturer and writer. As early as 1890, while teaching full-time, she lectured to groups of educators and African American women’s groups. In 1900 she lectured on “The Negro Problem in America” at the first Pan-African Conference, then toured Europe. As a writer, she is best known for A Voice from the South (1892); the work marked her as a dedicated feminist and advocate for the African American race. Anna Cooper died on February 27, 1964, when she was 105 years old.
FANNY COPPIN (1837–1913) Educator
Fanny Coppin was born into slavery in 1837 and rose to prominence in the field of education. After her aunt purchased her freedom, Coppin went on to become the second African American woman to receive a degree from Oberlin College.
In 1865, Coppin was appointed principal of the women’s department of the Institute for Colored Youth, a high school established by Quakers in 1837, and later principal of the entire school. In 1894 Coppin founded the Women’s Exchange and Girls’ Home. She served as president of the local Women’s Mite Missionary Society and the Women’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society and as a vice president of the National Association of Colored Women.
Coppin, an active member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, served as president of the AME Home Missionary Society and accompanied her husband, Levi J. Coppin, on a missionary venture to South Africa.
Before her death at her Philadelphia home on January 21, 1913, Coppin began writing an autobiography Reminiscences of School Life, and Hints on Teaching.
HOWARD DODSON JR. (1939– ) Historian, Educator, Curator
Born in Chester, Pennsylvania, on June 1, 1939, Howard Dodson Jr. was always at or near the top of his class throughout junior high and high school. Out of 89 students at Chester High School, Dodson was one of nine who graduated from college. In 1961, he received a bachelor’s of science from West Chester State College and, in 1964, he received a master’s degree in history and political science from Villanova University. In 1964, driven by an interest in African people transplanted in the Western Hemisphere, Dodson worked in Ecuador as a member of the U.S. Peace Corps.
In 1969, Dodson entered the doctoral program in Black History and Race Relations at the University of California at Berkeley after spending one year in Puerto Rico. During that time, Dodson studied the socio-political factors behind the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the time. As part of his doctoral studies, Dodson earned a position at the Institute of the Black World, a research branch of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. Dodson served as director of the Institute from 1974 to 1979.
Dodson’s doctoral dissertation “The Political Economy in South Carolina: 1780–1830” demonstrates that African American slave workers were not victims of their circumstances but rather contributors to a complex socioeconomic system. In addition to his dissertation, Dodson has written widely on the subject of African American history. He served as editor-in-chief of Black World View magazine in 1977, and he has published books including Thinking and Rethinking U.S. History (1988), a book for children written with Madelon Bedell, and Black Photographers Bear Witness: 100 Years of Social Protest (1989), a book published by Williams College Museum of Art on which he collaborated with Deborah Willis.
In 1984, Dodson took a post as the head of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. In 1991, due to his ministrations and fund-raising, the Schomburg Center opened an expanded complex. Dodson has served as consultant to the National Endowment for the Humanities, the African American Museums Association, the Library of Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the National Council of Churches. He won the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History Service Award in 1976 and a Governor’s Award for African Americans of Distinction in 1982.
SARAH MAPPS DOUGLASS (1806–1882) Educator
The free-born Sarah Mapps Douglass was an outspoken anti-slavery activist and accomplished educator. She attended the Ladies Institute of the Pennsylvania Medical University. In the 1820s she organized a school for African American children in Philadelphia.
Douglass was an active member of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, which also provided support to Douglass’s school. Moreover, she served as vice chairman of the Freedman’s Aid Society and was a member of the New York Anti-Slavery Women.
In 1853 Douglass was appointed head of the girls’ department at the Institute of Colored Youth (forerunner of Cheney State College). She remained there until her retirement in 1877. Douglass died in Philadelphia on September 8, 1882.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON (1958– ) Educator and Writer
Michael Eric Dyson was born into a middle-class family in Detroit, Michigan, in 1958. He was ordained as a Baptist minister and attended divinity school at Tennessee’s Knoxville College, ultimately earning a bachelor’s degree in 1982 from Carson-Newman College. Three years later, he accepted a graduate fellowship at Princeton University, obtaining his master’s and doctorate degrees by 1993. Dyson went on to become an assistant professor at Brown University. A non-traditional scholar, he chose to target his interests to a larger audience. Dyson reviewed books and films for newspapers, contributed record reviews to Rolling Stone, and became a columnist for Christian Century and The Nation. Reflecting Black: African-American Cultural Criticism, Dyson’s first book-length collection of essays, addressed African American pop culture icons.
In 1994 Dyson published Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X. The book was written in response to a confrontation with some of Dyson’s African American male students at Brown University who objected to the presence of whites in his course on the radical Muslim leader. True to his goal of reaching beyond the scholarly community, Dyson’s book was deliberately marketed to a wide, youthful readership. In his third book Between God and Gangsta Rap, Dyson attempted to put gangsta rap in its cultural and social perspective and established himself as an authority. As a result, he was asked to testify on the genre before a congressional subcommittee, gained popularity as a lecturer, and became a sought-after guest on talk shows. He continued his writing, producing Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line (1996), I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King Jr. (2000), and Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur (2001). Dyson has been considered one of a group of “new intellectuals.” In 1996, he headed the Institute of African American Research at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and continued to address issues of race and culture in both scholarly and popular publications. He next served as a visiting professor at Columbia University before taking a position with DePauw University in Chicago. In 2002, he joined the faculty at Penn State as the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities and African-American Studies.
JOHN HOPE FRANKLIN (1915– ) Scholar
Franklin’s long and distinguished career includes the publication of numerous books of history and biography, his autobiography, numerous awards and honorary degrees, and a position of great stature in the scholarly community, and as a leader of a national dialogue about race.
Franklin was born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma, in 1915. He received his bachelor’s degree from Fisk University in 1935 and then began graduate work at Harvard, which awarded him a master’s in 1936 and a Ph.D. in 1941. He taught history at Fisk and St. Augustine’s College while working on his doctorate, later moving on to North Carolina College at Durham, Howard University, Brooklyn College (where he chaired the history department), Cambridge University, the University of Chicago, and Duke University.
Among his many publications are books such as From Slavery to Freedom, A History of Negro Americans, Militant South, Reconstruction After the Civil War, The Emancipation Proclamation, A Southern Odyssey, Race and History: Selected Essays (1947), and The Color Line: Legacy for the Twenty-First Century (1946). Even into his 80s, Franklin continued to produce scholarly works on race. In 1996 he co-wrote Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in an American Life for which he won an American Book Award in 1997. He also co-wrote Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation, 1790–1860 in 1999. In 1998 he published a long-overdue biography of African American historian George Washington Williams, and in 2005 his autobiography, Mirror to America, was published.
Twice a Guggenheim Fellow, Franklin received honors from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, Encyclopedia Britannica and many other organizations, was made professor emeritus of history at Duke, and earned the Publications Prize of the American Studies Association established in his name in 1986. Franklin has received over 90 honorary degrees. In 1995, President Clinton awarded Franklin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. Franklin was honored with a Harold Washington Literary Award in 2000 for his impressive body of work, and that same year was awarded a Lincoln Prize for his distinguished contribution to the study of the Civil War. In 2006 he was co-recipient of the Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement, for his study of humanity.
In 1997 President Clinton named Franklin as chair of the White House Initiative on Race and Reconciliation, a position that enabled him to lead a year-long dialogue on race held in cities across the nation. He is currently the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University.
E. FRANKLIN FRAZIER (1894–1962) Educator, Sociologist, Activist
E. Franklin Frazier left a 30-year legacy of research and writings on the African American family, youth, the church, and middle class. He combined theory with practice, and his work remains an authoritative source for later generations of scholars.
Born on September 24, 1894, in Baltimore, Maryland, Frazier attended the segregated schools of Baltimore and graduated from the Colored High School. On scholarship, he entered Howard University in Washington, D.C., and used income from odd jobs to support his college career. He graduated cum laude in 1915 and a few months later began teaching mathematics at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama. He left two years later and taught at various African American schools and colleges. After spending some time in military service, he enrolled in Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and graduated in 1920 with a master’s degree in sociology.
Frazier was an American Scandinavian Foundation fellow from 1921 to 1922. In the fall of 1922, he moved to Atlanta and held a dual position as director of the School of Social Work and professor of sociology at Morehouse College. He remained productive in research and writing during his Atlanta years. He moved to Chicago and studied full-time for his doctorate at the University of Chicago. In 1929 he moved to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and in 1931 completed his Ph.D. dissertation “The Negro Family in Chicago,” which was regarded as a landmark study. Frazier left Fisk in 1934 and moved to Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he remained for 28 years as head of the Department of Sociology. While at Fisk and Howard, he also added to his body of research and writing. Prominent among his publications were The Negro intheUnitedStates (1949) and his most controversial book Black Bourgeoise (1955 and 1957).
Frazier later headed UNESCO’s Division of Applied Sciences for two years and traveled and lectured abroad as well. He retired from Howard University as professor emeritus in 1959, but continued to teach there and at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Frazier died on May 17, 1962; his book The Negro Church in America was published posthumously that year.
HENRY LOUIS GATES JR. (1950– ) Literary Scholar, Educator, Critic
Henry Louis Gates Jr. was born on September 16, 1950, in Keyser, West Virginia. He was summa cum laude in 1973 at Yale University, where he earned a bachelor’s in history. He went on to receive a master’s in 1974 and a Ph.D. in 1979, from Clare College, Cambridge University. He served as a staff correspondent for Time magazine in London until 1975. There he studied with Nobel laureate playwright Wole Soyinka of Nigeria. His post-graduate studies examined African American literature as it has derived from the traditions of Africa and the Caribbean. He returned to the U.S. as a guest lecturer for Yale periodically from 1976 to 1979.
In 1979, Gates accepted an assistant professorship in the English department at Yale, where he served as director of the undergraduate Afro-American studies department until 1985. In 1981, the MacArthur Foundation awarded him $150,000 for his critical essays about African American literature. When he republished Harriet E. Wilson’s Our Nig, or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, in a Two-Story White House, North, Showing That Slavery’s Shadows Fall Even There in 1983, he vaulted to the top of the world of African American scholarship. He has also been a Rockefeller Foundation fellow and has enjoyed grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. During this time, he created the PBS television series The Image of the Black in the Western Imagination, which aired in 1982. From 1985 to 1990, he served as a professor of English and African Studies at Cornell University and as a W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of Literature at Duke University from 1988 to 1990. He moved to Harvard in 1990, where he was named W. E. B. Du Bois Professor in the Humanities, and in 1991 became chair of the Department of African American Studies.
In 1989, Gates won the American Book Award for The Signifying Monkey and an Ainsfield-Wolfe Book Award the same year for Towards a Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism. In 1994, Gates’s memoir Colored People was published; the work encompasses his experiences growing up in rural West Virginia. In 1996, Gates earned prestige for his African American studies department by attracting some of the country’s leading scholars to Harvard. In addition, Gates and Kwame Appiah edited Encarta Africana, a multimedia encyclopedia on compact disc released in January 1999.
Other works that Gates has contributed to or edited include: (Contributor) Facing History: The Black Image in American Art, 1710-1940 (1990); (Introduction) Josephine Baker and La Revue Negre: Paul Colin’s Lithographs of Le Tumulte Noir in Paris, 1927 (1998); (Co-editor) Pioneers of the Black Atlantic: Five Slave Narratives from the Enlightenment, 1772-1815 (1998); (Co-editor) Black Imagination and the Middle Passage (1999); (Co-editor) The Civitas Anthology of African American Slave Narratives (1999); (Contributor) Wonders of the African World (1999); (Editor) The Bondswoman’s Narrative by Hannah Crafts, a Fugitive Slave, Recently Escaped from North Carolina (2002).
WILLIAM L. HANSBERRY (1894–1965) Historian, Educator
William Leo Hansberry was born on February 25, 1894, in Gloster, Mississippi. He earned a bachelor’s in anthropology in 1921. Determined to eliminate American ethnocentrism regarding Africa, he issued a manifesto to African American schools and colleges titled “Announcing an Effort to Promote the Study and Facilitate the Teaching of the Fundamentals of Negro Life and History.” The flier brought Hansberry three job offers from schools, and he accepted a post at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Beginning in 1922, he began designing courses on African and African American history.
Despite Hansberry’s ability to prove the material taught in his courses, the board of Howard University pulled his financial backing after spurious accusations by colleagues but agreed to keep the African studies program in place. Still, the scuffle cost him much in funds and promotions. Nevertheless, in 1932, Hansberry returned to Harvard to complete his master’s in anthropology and history, continuing his studies in the mid-1930s at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. His studies won him a Rockefeller Foundation grant that allowed him to study at Oxford University in England from 1937 to 1938, when Howard University finally recognized his achievements with an assistant professorship. But entrenched racial prejudice kept Hansberry from earning more grants and fellowships to continue his work.
Howard University made little effort to compensate him and after over 20 years of service, he remained only an associate professor in 1945. But then the university climate changed and Hansberry was appointed advisor to African students in 1946; in 1950, he was made Emergency Aid to the African Students’ Committee at Howard University in addition to his teaching load. Due to increased interest in African studies, Hansberry won a Fulbright scholarship to lecture at Cairo University and to study in Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Sudan in 1953. He also visited Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Hansberry died in Chicago on November 3, 1965.
BELL HOOKS (1952– ) Social Activist, Educator, Writer
Feminist educator bell hooks (it is her preference that her name appear in lowercase letters) has done her most important work as a teacher in programs that allow a critique of racism that was absent during her own undergraduate years. She contributes essays to a variety of scholarly journals and also publishes fiction and poetry. hooks has gained notoriety as a writer of critical essays on systems of domination, making herself a prominent name in feminist debate. Her titles include: Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black (1989); Black Looks: Race and Representation (1992); Killing Rage: Ending Racism (1995); Black Is a Woman’s Color (1996); and Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood (1996).
Born Gloria Jean Watkins in 1952, hooks grew up with five siblings in Hopkinsville, a small town in rural Kentucky. Despite her family’s poverty and hardship, hooks reveled in lessons of diligence and community. She attended segregated public schools, where her role models were single African American female teachers. Verbally and through poetry, hooks began defiantly resisting the sexism she perceived within her neighborhood. Rejecting her expected role as an obedient Southern girl, the writer eventually adopted a pseudonym to represent a new sense of self—a woman who spoke her mind and was not afraid to talk back.
When she won a scholarship to Stanford University, hooks sought out intellectual and political affirmation from the campus feminist movement. Disillusioned and alienated by the absence of material by or discussion about African American women, hooks began criticizing the persistent racism within feminism. Having gained her bachelor’s degree in 1973, hooks faced obstacles at the University of Wisconsin and the University of California at Santa Cruz, where male faculty members were determined to prevent her from becoming a university professor. In 1981, hooks published Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, which was sharply criticized for its defiance of academic convention. Nonetheless, the work became central to discussions of racism and sexism. hooks persisted with her studies, earned a Ph.D. in 1983, and went on to teach African American and women’s studies at Yale University, Oberlin College, and City College of New York.
JOHN HOPE (1868–1936) Educator, Activist
The progress made in higher education for African American students has been strongly helped by the efforts of John Hope. His life was committed to improving the school system of his time to afford more minority access. Hope was one of the most influential leaders of his time in the field of higher education.
In 1894, Hope graduated from Brown University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and was elected class orator for the commencement service. In later years, Hope would receive an honorary master of arts and law degree from Brown, along with admittance into the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Upon graduating, Hope accepted a teaching job at Roger Williams University in Nashville, Tennessee. Four years later he accepted a teaching position at Atlanta Baptist College, located in Georgia, the state of his birth. At the college, Hope began a long-time friendship with the educator W. E. B. Du Bois. They both attended the 1895 Macon Convention which turned into the Georgia Equal Rights Convention.
In 1906, John Hope became acting president of Atlanta Baptist College, and the next year he was named president. He was the first African American to be appointed president at a Baptist school. As president, Hope expanded the college with funds donated by John T. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. In 1913, the school was renamed Morehouse College and was very progressive in its stressing of the dignity of its African American students. During the 1920s, the college continued to expand as Hope developed the Atlanta School of Social Work.
In 1929, Hope fulfilled his lifelong ambition to establish a formal relationship among Atlanta’s African American schools by having the Atlanta University Affiliation signed by the presidents of Atlanta University, Spelman, and Morehouse College. Hope was appointed president of Atlanta University while continuing as president of Morehouse College. Hope received the Harmon Award in 1930 for distinguished achievement in education. He died in Atlanta on February 20, 1936.
FREDERICK HUMPHRIES (1935– ) College and University President, Educator
Frederick Humphries was born in Apalachicola, Florida, on December 26, 1935. He graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Florida A&M University in 1957. Following two years as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Security Agency, Humphries spent the next five years working on his Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh while earning a living as an academic tutor. He received his doctorate in 1964, and took an associate professorship at his alma mater.
In 1967, Humphries became a full professor at Florida A&M after spending two years at the University of Minnesota. Along with the professorship, Humphries also became a program director of the Thirteen-Colleges Curriculum Program, which initially involved 13 historically African American colleges. As director, Humphries advocated new methods of looking at the particular problems facing African American students with the intent of improving students’ overall educational progress. Humphries and his colleagues instituted successful experimental curriculum changes that made classrooms “student-centered academic environment(s).” A scientist himself, Humphries also strived to increase African American students’ accessibility in math and science.
Tennessee State University hired Humphries as its president in 1974. He served in the post until 1985, when he returned, once again, to his alma mater—this time as its president. Under Humphries, Florida A&M’s status as an institute of higher learning was greatly elevated. In 1992, 1995, and 1997, the school attracted more National Achievement Scholars, the nation’s top African American students, than any other institution. At the same time, Florida A&M’s enrollment more than doubled under the leadership of Humphries; innovative programs that increased the number of African American students going on to pursue graduate studies were implemented. Humphries retired on June 30, 2001.
CHARLES S. JOHNSON (1893–1956) Scholar
Charles Spurgeon Johnson was born in Bristol, Virginia, in 1893. He earned a B.A. from Virginia Union University and worked on a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago.
Johnson occupied a number of diverse positions, from editor to administrator. He served as the assistant executive secretary of the Chicago Commission on Race Relations and as research director of the National Urban League, where he founded the organization’s journal Opportunity.
In 1928 Johnson was made chairman of Fisk University’s Department of Social Sciences. While at Fisk he established the Fisk Institute of Race Relations. In 1933 he was appointed director of Swarthmore College’s Institute of Race Relations. In 1946 Johnson was appointed president of Fisk University—the first African American to hold the position.
Johnson wrote several books before his death on October 27, 1956, including The Negro in American Civilization (1930), The Economic Status of the Negro (1933), The Negro College Graduate (1936), and Educational and Cultural Crisis (1951).
MORDECAI W. JOHNSON (1890–1976) Former College President, Minister
As president of Howard University in Washington, D.C., for 34 years, Mordecai W. Johnson became a highly respected minister, educator, and orator of international note. He built the university into a highly visible academic institution that became known as the “Capstone of Negro Education.”
Johnson was the son of former slaves. He was born in Paris, Tennessee, on December 12, 1890, and attended Roger Williams University in Nashville and the Howe Institute in Memphis, both of which are now defunct. He transferred to Atlanta Baptist College, now known as Morehouse College, where he completed the secondary and undergraduate programs. He taught at the college for a year, then continued his studies at the University of Chicago where he received a second undergraduate degree. Johnson earned his bachelor of divinity degree from Rochester Theological Seminary in Rochester, New York.
He was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston, West Virginia, for nine years. In 1912 he took a leave of absence to study at Harvard University Divinity School graduating in June of 1922. In 1926, when he was 36-years old, Johnson was elected 11th president and the first African American president of Howard University. Johnson first concentrated on providing financial stability for the school. Starting with the medical school, he received solid support from the Julius Rosenwald Fund and the General Education Board. Then he moved to strengthen the law school and appointed Charles Hamilton Houston as dean of the school; he approached the country’s top law schools for recommendations for Howard’s law school faculty. One of its most notable graduates was Thurgood Marshall. The law school also engaged in research and analysis involving important civil rights issues that went before the court. Johnson was awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1928, the NAACP’s highest award.
During the first half of his tenure, Johnson faced sharp criticism because he lacked a terminal academic degree and because some faculty and staff opposed his administrative style. He survived the controversy, maintained the support of the board of trustees, and continued fruitful contacts with foundations for financial support. He attracted outstanding scholars to the Howard faculty including philosopher Alain Locke, cell biologist Ernest E. Just, chemist Percy Julian, political scientist Ralph Bunche, historian Rayford Logan, and Charles Drew, who became known for his work with blood plasma. Johnson also erected new buildings and founded several honor societies on campus including a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
Johnson traveled widely; his lectures, given without notes, often lasted 45 minutes and held audiences spellbound. His themes often focused on racism, segregation, and discrimination. He retired from the presidency of Howard in 1960 and died on September 10, 1976, when he was 86 years old.
LAURENCE CLIFTON JONES (1884–1975) School Founder, School Administrator
Laurence Clifton Jones founded a school in the deep woods of Mississippi’s Black Belt and made it possible for thousands of African American youths to receive elementary and high school education. He uplifted the community as well by helping uneducated men and women to enhance their lives. He became known as “The Little Professor of Piney Woods.”
Jones was born on November 21, 1884, in St. Joseph, Missouri, and worked his way to a degree from Iowa State University. Booker T. Washington inspired Jones first through his writings and later when he offered Jones a position at his school, Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). Jones declined and, instead, in 1910 founded what he called a “country life school” in Piney Woods, Mississippi. Officially, the school was established on May 17, 1913. He garnered the moral support of the community, and when the students lacked money for school expenses, he accepted payments in produce.
On June 29, 1912, Jones married Grace M. Allen, whom he had met while he was in college. Together the Joneses enabled the school to grow and engaged in fund-raising activities. Grace taught useful skills to community residents and also became a member of the school’s faculty. With the help of the Cotton Blossom Singers—the school’s ambassadors of music—the Joneses traveled the United States performing fundraising concerts. Laurence Jones organized the International Sweethearts of Rhythms in the late 1930s and engaged that group in fundraising concerts until the group, which became known worldwide, severed its relationship with the school in April of 1941.
The school then expanded, adding a department for blind children. Jones later became known through the television program This Is Your Life aired in December of 1954. An appeal for support made during the program resulted in substantial funding for Piney Woods. Jones retired from the presidency in 1974, but continued to travel on official school business until he died in 1975.
E. J. JOSEY (1924– ) Librarian, Activist, Author
Elonnie Junius Josey was born in Norfolk, Virginia on January 20, 1924. He studied music and played the church organ until 1943, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving for three years. Josey, known simply as E. J., went on to complete his education at Howard University’s School of Music, later moving on to Columbia University’s master’s program in history and the State University of New York’s Library School. In 1953, Josey began his career in libraries and rapidly became a leader in confronting segregation within them.
After his initial struggle against the Georgia Library Association when they denied him membership in 1960, Josey persevered in a diverse public and academic library career and gained a reputation as a wise, impassioned speaker on social issues. His publication The Black Librarian in America was a pioneering look into conditions for African Americans within librarianship. Its 1994 sequel The Black Librarian in America Revisited was an appraisal of changes that had been made in intervening years. Josey helped organize the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, which combated institutional racism and widespread discrimination both within the profession and in conjunction with library services.
As president of the American Library Association from 1984 to 1985, Josey fostered awareness of the value of libraries as an integral part of the nation’s infrastructure. Fighting against severe budget cuts imposed by the Reagan administration, Josey rallied library advocates in Washington, D.C., to march with him in protest. Josey has, in addition to his professional achievements, led community advocacy for civil and human rights as a leading member of the NAACP, was a contributor to intellectual development in emerging African countries, and was awarded four honorary doctorates. From the late 1980s until his retirement in 1995, Josey joined the faculty of the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh and devoted himself to achieving a racial balance in library education. For his long service to promoting reading and diverse library selections, Josey was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 2001.
MAULANA KARENGA (1941– ) Activist-scholar, Educator, Ethicist
Dr. Maulana Karenga is professor and chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, where he also chairs the President’s Task Force on Multicultural Education and Campus Diversity. He holds Ph.D. degrees in political science from United States International University and in social ethics with a focus on the classical African ethics of ancient Egypt from the University of Southern California. He has also been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Durban-Westville, South Africa for his “intellectual and practical work on behalf of African people.”
Karenga came to prominence in the 1960s as founder of The Organization Us, a cultural and social change group whose name he explains, “simply means us Black people and stresses the communitarian focus of the organization and its philosophy Kawaida, which is an ongoing synthesis of the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.” Karenga and Us have greatly influenced the development of the discipline of black studies, the black arts and black student movements, Afrocentricity, and ancient Egyptian studies. They have also advanced the independent school and rites of passage movements through the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles of Kawaida).
Moreover, Karenga and Us played important roles in the founding of the initial Black Power conferences in the 1960s and the National Black United Front in the 1980s. More recently they were in the forefront of organizing the National African American Leadership Summit and the Million Man March/Day of Absence. Karenga was a member of the executive council for the landmark 1995 gathering in Washington and authored its mission statement, co-editing the subsequent volume The Million Man March/Day of Absence: A Commemorative Anthology. Having celebrated its 33rd anniversary in 1998, The Organization Us continues its declared commitment to “[s]truggle, service and institution-building.”
An internationally recognized activist-scholar, Karenga has published numerous scholarly articles and books, among them the widely used Introduction to Black Studies; his retranslation and commentary on ancient Egyptian texts; Selections from the Husia: Sacred Wisdom of Ancient Egypt; and the influential Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture. In fact, he created the Kwanzaa celebration now observed throughout the world African community. He has lectured throughout the United States and the world and earned numerous scholarship, leadership, and community service awards.
ELIZABETH DUNCAN KOONTZ (1919–1989) Educator, Organizational Official
As teacher, assistant state school superintendent, leader in state and national teachers’ associations, and the first African American president of the National Education Association (NEA), Elizabeth Duncan Koontz served the education needs of her constituents. Born on June 3, 1919, in Salisbury, North Carolina, she was the youngest of seven children. She graduated from Livingstone College with honors in 1938 and received a master’s degree from Atlanta University in 1941. Beyond this, she studied at the graduate level in several colleges and universities.
Koontz moved from being an elementary school teacher in Dunn, North Carolina, to Aggrey Memorial School in Landis, then to Fourteenth Street School in Winston-Salem, and finally taught special education classes at Price High School in Salisbury. Her participation in the NEA began in 1952, when she was a member of the North Carolina Negro Teachers Association. That group was later admitted to the state chapter of the NEA. She served two terms as secretary, one as vicepresident,and one as president-elect of the NEA’s Department of Classroom Teachers. In 1965, she became the department’s first African American president. On July 6, 1968, Koontz was installed as the first African American president of the NEA. During her tenure, she brought a shift in the association from traditionally conservative to liberal. She supported agitation and, if necessary, strikes to bring about necessary change. She endorsed militant teachers and strongly supported teacher commitment and responsibility.
In January of 1969, President Richard Nixon appointed Koontz as director of the U.S. Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau, making her the first African American director. Later she became deputy assistant secretary for Labor Employment Standards. In the latter capacity, she became the U.S. delegate to the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women. She was active in numerous civic, religious, and educational organizations, and received approximately three dozen honorary degrees from various colleges and universities. Koontz held other positions until she retired in April of 1982. She suffered a heart attack at home in Salisbury and died on January 6, 1989.
LUCY C. LANEY (1854–1933) Educator, School Founder
Lucy Craft Laney spent her life assuring African Americans, particularly women, that they would be educated and had the freedom to educate others. She was born to former slaves on April 11, 1854, in Macon, Georgia. At age 15, Laney entered Atlanta University and graduated in 1873 in the school’s first class. She then did graduate study at the University of Chicago during the summer months.
Although virtually penniless, in 1883 Laney opened a school for Augusta, Georgia’s African American youth, held in Christ Presbyterian Church. The school was chartered in 1886 under Georgia law as a normal and industrial school. Haines Normal and Industrial Institute established the city’s first kindergarten and nurse education department in the early 1890s. Later the nurse education department became the school of nursing at Augusta’s University Hospital. By the 1930s, Haines dropped elementary education and offered a four-year high school program and some college-level courses. The Presbyterian Board of Missions, the schools’ primary source of funds, withdrew support during the Great Depression. Haines school declined, then closed its doors in 1949. Later, a new public structure, the Lucy C. Laney