Dangerous Donations: Northern Philanthropy and Southern Black Education, 1902-1930

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Dangerous Donations: Northern Philanthropy and Southern Black Education, 1902-1930. By Eric Anderson and Alfred A. Moss Jr. (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, c. 1999. Pp. xviii, 245. $34.95, ISBN 0-8262-1226-3.)

Dangerous Donations is a major, revisionist look at the relationship between northern philanthropy and southern black education in the early twentieth century. The book's title camouflages its direction. Readers might expect an examination of philanthropic giving based on the widely accepted notion of northern industrialists' need for a submissive black workforce in the southern political economy. Black school officials who were on the receiving end of philanthropy therefore accepted "dangerous donations" that inevitably played into the hands of racist southern whites and their northern corporate elite collaborators. The end result, as the story goes, was the control of the direction and overall "underdevelopment" of African American education. Eric Anderson and Alfred A. Moss Jr. argue that, to the contrary, it was southern whites that looked at northern philanthropy in the early twentieth century as "dangerous" to the South.

Anderson and Moss take their book's title from a 1909 pamphlet, Dangerous Donations, or Degrading Doles, or A Vast Scheme for Capturing and Controlling the Colleges and Universities of the Country, written by Warren A. Candler, a southern white Methodist bishop and a consistent critic of northern philanthropy. The authors cite evidence of other white southerners, on occasion extremists, who accused the northern philanthropic organizations--especially the most important philanthropic organization influencing black educational giving in the South, the General Education Board (GEB), founded in 1902--of supporting schools that failed to "prepare African Americans for their subordinate place in a segregated society" and even of "training the negroes to the vain hope of social equality with whites" (p. 7). Anderson and Moss readily admit that there were northern philanthropic compromises with white southerners, expansion of southern educational programs designed to placate the South, and, initially, little black influence on GEB policy. The authors persuasively conclude, however, that "the foundation philanthropists had a vision of race relations (and black potential) that was significantly different from the ideas of the South's white majority" (p. 11). Anderson and Moss rely on their thorough and detailed reading of philanthropic papers and personal correspondence to support their conclusions.

The authors also present a secondary thesis that expands the research base on African American education and the missionary societies that supported education work. They introduce in two long chapters the little-known history of the American Church Institute for Negroes (ACIN), which in 1906 resurrected white Episcopalian interest in African American education. Although these chapters are rich and introduce important sources chronicling Episcopalian education efforts, at times the authors lose sight of their major revisionist theme. Anderson and Moss come back strong in a final chapter that details the "transformation of northern philanthropy" between 1900 and 1930. The heart of that transformation involved the influence of the missionary societies and included a central role for the foundations, such as the GEB, that replaced individual donors. Though not necessarily new to students of educational history, Anderson and Moss remind us of the northern as well as southern hostility to the influence of the education foundations. …