Article 6: Howard University Students and Civil Rights Activism, 1934-1944

By Poch, Robert K. | American Educational History Journal, Annual 2015 | Go to article overview

Article 6: Howard University Students and Civil Rights Activism, 1934-1944


Poch, Robert K., American Educational History Journal


The decades preceding the U.S. civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s contain significant but largely unknown stories of resistance to racist policies that deprived non-white Americans equal provision of the most basic freedoms (Gilmore 2008; Egerton 1994; McPherson 1975). In the 1930s and 1940s, college and university leaders pursued important foundational civil rights work--if not always large-scale advancements--that later advocates built upon to achieve the more familiar progress of the 1960s (Bynum 2013; Holden 2012; Brown 2000; Sullivan 1996; Murray 1987; McNeil 1983). This article explores the complex contexts and relationships that enabled student civil rights advocates to emerge at Howard University in the 1930s and 1940s. Such histories are valuable given their realistic portrayal of the daily challenges, interpersonal collisions, collaborations, and organizational positioning that made some human rights victories possible and delayed or stopped others. Further, they show how student leadership in pursuit of civil rights could exert pressure on institutional leaders to continue to define the mission and role of a prominent historically black university and the education it provided.

Gains in civil rights were often associated with and preceded by tense internal organizational struggles and dissension (Janken 2003). They are perhaps seen in starkest relief within specific institutional, geographic, and time contexts (Holden 2012). This was so at Howard University in the District of Columbia during the first half of the 1940s. There, student leaders working in tandem with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and broader national events pursued targeted racial equality in the Nation's capital city (Brown 2000). Yet, while well-known for being a center for activist black intellectualism and civil rights advocacy, Howard University was largely dependent upon Congressional appropriations and, therefore, the goodwill of elected officials (Williams 2009; Holloway 2002; McKinney 1997; Murray 1987; Logan 1969). This created a challenging balancing act for Howard University president Mordecai Johnson, his deans, and faculty who, while pursuing aggressive civil rights agendas themselves, had to retain institutional funding and political support for the institution (Williams 2009; Murray 1987).

Howard University students worked to navigate these challenges and balances. In the process, they tested important strategies and partnerships that enabled a measure of success in desegregating local businesses. They also challenged the resolve and values of the University leadership in pursuing civil rights, modified institutional processes to provide students with greater voice and access to institutional leaders, and provided a training ground for ongoing civil rights leadership among the University's undergraduate and graduate student populations (Brown 2000). Their work and the contexts in which it occurred and was challenged are examined below.

THE CIVIL RIGHTS-RELATED CONTEXTS OF WASHINGTON, D.C. AND HOWARD UNIVERSITY IN THE 1930S AND 1940S

The histories of Washington, D.C. and Howard University are tightly intertwined. The connections go well beyond the University's location within the District and congressional financial support. The intertwining involves the activism of the University in response to racial injustices perpetrated within the city itself or in reaction to race-based actions--or inactions--that emerged from the respective branches of the federal government (McNeil 1983; Logan 1969). Washington, D.C., like other parts of the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, was a Jim Crow city with segregated facilities and communities (Brown 2000; Murray 1987; Thurman 1979; Green 1963). Pauli Murray, a Howard University law school graduate, wrote in 1944 that "the nation's capital [is] where jim crow [sic] rides the American Eagle, if indeed he does not put the poor symbol to flight" (Reporting Civil Rights 2003, 62). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Article 6: Howard University Students and Civil Rights Activism, 1934-1944
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.