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

By Eric Anderson; Alfred A. Moss Jr. | Go to book overview

3

The Education of a Philanthropist
WilliamH. Baldwin, Jr., 1898—1905

You have never doubted the advisability of giving your own children a reasonable education—are not such doubts always about the children of others?

—W. H. Baldwin, Jr. 1.

From the outside, to critics and beneficiaries, “Ogdenism” appeared strong and consistent. From within the philanthropic movement, however, it was easier to perceive the uncertainty, shifting options, and development incident to any reform movement. The career of William Henry Baldwin, Jr., Tuskegee trustee, member of the Southern Education Board, and first chairman of the General Education Board, is both a good illustration of the philanthropists and their ideals, and, at the same time, a revealing example of failure, the representation of an important “road not taken.”

Baldwin was a wealthy, reform-minded businessman whose philanthropic activity has been explained in two ways. According to one interpretation, his commitment to reform was the direct product of economic motivation, with calculating self-interest lying behind his concern for black education. He was, in short, a pseudo-reformer. The alternative explanation for Baldwin's philanthropy is even simpler. Here was a good man, an exemplary American citizen, who provided inspirational (or “sentimental”) leadership purely out of a sense of duty. Good deeds, from this perspective, require no explanation, nor is there anything mysterious about philanthropic motivation. Neither explanation is entirely satisfactory nor completely wrong.

____________________
1.
William H. Baldwin, Jr., “Why a Businessman Should Be Interested in Public Education, ” November 22, 1902, speech to the Richmond Educational Association, in William H. Baldwin [III] Papers, State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

-63-

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