Lugenia Burns Hope
Lugenia Burns Hope, née Burns (February 19, 1871, St. Louis, Missouri – August 14, 1947, Nashville, Tennessee), was a social reformer whose Neighborhood Union and other community service organizations improved the quality of life for blacks in Atlanta, Georgia, and served as a model for the future Civil Rights Movement.
Throughout her youth, Lugenia Hope worked for various charitable organizations, inspiring a lifelong interest in social outreach work. Between 1890 and 1893 she studied at the Chicago Art Institute, the Chicago School of Design (now also part of the Art Institute of Chicago), and the Chicago Business College. Lugenia Hope married John Hope in 1897 and moved with him to Atlanta when he joined the faculty of the Atlanta Baptist College (now Morehouse College); he was later appointed the institution's president in 1906. With the help of Morehouse students, she surveyed local area residents about their needs for community development projects, which eventually led to the college providing day care, kindergarten, and recreational programs. Her community involvement led her in 1908 to create the Neighborhood Union, the first woman-run social welfare agency for African Americans in Atlanta, which provided medical, recreational, employment, and educational services and became known for its community building and race and gender activism. Hope served as head of its Board of Managers until 1936.
Because only white soldiers were served by the United Service Organization's entertainment programs in World War II, the Neighborhood Union ran YWCA War Work Councils to provide similar services to the Black community. Their success led to Lugenia Hope coordinating a US-wide network of Hostess Houses that provided services ranging from recreational programs to relocation counseling to black and Jewish soldiers and their families.
A founding member of the Atlanta branch of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, Hope became involved in reform activities nation-wide, such as her 1920 effort to end segregation and white-domination within the national YWCA. Her statement to white women who opposed full equality in the YWCA for African-American women was: "Ignorance is ignorance wherever found, yet the most ignorant white woman may enjoy every privilege that America offers. Now ...the ignorant Negro woman should also enjoy them."
An innovative thinker on racial politics, Hope criticized the common belief that black Americans needed to prove their worthiness as citizens, and as vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of Atlanta organized six-week courses on voting, democracy, and the U.S. Constitution. This work was later copied across the country, and these classes became part of the early stages of the Civil Rights Movement.
Lugenia Hope became ill in 1936, the year her husband died, and spent the rest of her life in New York City, Chicago, and Nashville.
- National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Celebrates Black History Month 2005! Lugenia Burns Hope (1871-1947).
- Encyclopaedia Britannica Guide to Black History*Georgia Women of Achievement*National Association of Social Workers.
- Louie Davis Shivery, Hugh H. Smythe. "The Neighborhood Union: A Survey of the Beginnings of Social Welfare Movements among Negroes in Atlanta", Phylon, Vol. 3, No. 2 (1942), pp. 149–62.
- Jacqueline Anne Rouse. Lugenia Burns Hope: Black Southern Reformer, University of Georgia Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8203-2386-1