Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

By Philip S. Foner; Robert James Branham | Go to book overview

139 THE ATTITUDE OF THE AMERICAN MIND TOWARD THE NEGRO INTELLECT

Alexander Crummell

In the last years of the nineteenth century, works of "scientific racism" purporting to deny the possibility of intellectuality among black people were used to support discriminatory policies and practices. In response, prominent African American intellectuals, led by Alexander Crummell, established the American Negro Academy in 1897 and under its auspices produced a series of important scholarly publications.

Alexander Crummell ( 1819-1898) was a distinguished scholar, missionary, and Pan-Africanist. Born in New York City, he attended the African Free School in Manhattan and Canal Street High School, where he studied under Theodore S. Wright and Peter Williams. He later attended the abolitionist-run Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, New York, and graduated in 1839. Rejected from New York's General Theological Seminary because of his color, Crummell studied privately with Episcopal clergy. He was ordained in 1844.

Crummell became a leader of the antislavery and black convention movements. From 1848 to 1853, Crummell lectured and studied in England. He graduated from Queen's College, Cambridge, in 1853, became a missionary and citizen of Liberia, and accepted an appointment to the faculty of Liberia College in Monrovia. Working under the auspices of the American Colonization Society, he made several trips to the United States in efforts to persuade black Americans to emigrate. But as a political opponent of the color caste system that excluded native Africans from institutional power in Liberia, Crummell himself was forced to leave the country in 1872 and returned to the United States.

Crummell was the senior African American priest in the Episcopal Church and founded and ministered to St. Luke's Church in Washington, D.C. He became a popular lecturer on college campuses, stressing the social responsibilities of educated blacks as racial leaders. While advocating a system of trade schools for most African Americans, Crummell strove to produce a class of educated black leaders who would serve as "scholar-philanthropists." From 1895 to 1897, he taught at Howard University. In the last year of his life, he helped found the American Negro Academy and, as its president, supported its efforts to sponsor and promote black scholarship and to publicize the responses of black intellectuals to racist materials that passed as scholarship. Other officers included vice presidents W. E. B. Du Bois and William Saunders Scarborough and, as treasurer, Reverend Francis J. Grimke. On December 28, 1897, Crum

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