Constructing the Legacies of
INVISIBLE ONES, LOST SOULS,
AND PRODIGAL SONS
Each generation, however, will have its creed.
The conspiring forces of economic depression and racial segregation could not prevent, and, in many ways encouraged, Howard's emergence during the New Deal era as this country's first and most important modern university for black Americans. Although his stewardship was frequently challenged, Mordecai Johnson, the school's first black president, pursued an aggressive course in developing the university and moving it toward full accreditation. He recruited the nation's most promising black scholars, secured unprecedented fiscal, political, and moral support from the federal government, and repeatedly defended his faculty's academic freedom. Largely due to these efforts, Howard became home to many of the most prominent black thinkers of the day. Regardless of how they may have felt about dealing with Johnson, working at Howard, or living in the District, intellectuals like Abram Harris, E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche prospered.
Abram Harris joined the Howard faculty in 1928. That same year, Mordecai Johnson asked Howard philosopher Alain Locke for a list of scholars who would work with Harris to intensify the academic rigor of the institution. Locke responded with a memorandum describing several young intellects rich with promise. Ralph Bunche, although only starting his second year in graduate school at Harvard, made Locke's very short list. 1 The next year, 1929, Bunche joined Harris at the “capstone.” In 1934, the intellectual fervor in the social sciences that started with Harris in eco-