Civil Rights and Politics at Hampton Institute: The Legacy of Alonzo G. Moron
Watkins, William H., The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Civil Rights and Politics at Hampton Institute: The Legacy of Alonzo G. Moron * Hoda M. Zaki * Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2007 * xvi, 190 pp. * $35.00
In Civil Rights and Politics at Hampton Institute: The Legacy of Alonzo G. Moron, author Hoda M. Zaki presents a study of a savvy leader operating in changing times. Alonzo Moron, the first black president of Hampton Institute, was one of the many quiet history-makers mostly unknown in America's bumpy racial ride. This is not a happy story of victory over adversity but rather a study of the real world where wills and interests conflict, and the good guys do not always ride off in triumph.
We all recognize Hampton as the historical nest of accomodationist politics and education. Its students were trained toward the pious acceptance of obedience and working with their hands. Nurtured in those old ways, Moron readied himself and his institution for a new day.
Zaki reveals a rock-solid man, of Caribbean stock, well-trained and well-suited to offer leadership in the dramatically changing environment of the post-World War II South. We learn that Moron was a fierce opponent of the segregation and injustice historically dominating the region. Using the tools and ideology of liberal democracy, he envisioned Hampton in a new South.
Zaki provides a penetrating examination of his subject's philosophical, religious, and socio-political views. One finds Moron stable, smart but not seminal, talented but not extraordinary, and brave but contained. Moron, above all, was a person who recognized boundaries. We can locate him as a charter member of the Talented Tenth. Herein reside the most interesting contradictions and complexities.
Choosing to focus exclusively on the South and Moron, Zaki misses the opportunity to explore the national and international drama surrounding him. In this period, civil rights and the Cold War became ideologically entangled. The socio-political and racial issues contested during World War II placed democracy and human rights on the front burner throughout Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia. From Kenyatta to Lumumba to Mao to Ho to Fidel, oppressed people threw off the yoke of imperial oppression. …