Negro Academy

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The American Negro Academy (ANA) was an intellectual organization that supported African-American scholarship. It was organized in Washington DC, in 1897.[1] The organization was the first in the United States composed of African-American scholars, and it operated from 1897 to 1928.[2]

Its founders were primarily composed of authors, scholars, and artists. of the organization included Alexander Crummell, an Episcopal priest and staunch Republican from New York City;[3] John Wesley Cromwell;[4] Paul Laurence Dunbar; Walter B. Hayson, and Kelly Miller. Reverend Doctor Alexander Crummell served as one the Academy's core founders and first president before his death in 1898.

The organization was formed to provide an alternative to Booker T. Washington's approach to education and scholarship. Washington's Tuskegee University was based on what was called the Atlanta compromise. He emphasized vocational and industrial training for southern blacks, who lived mostly in rural areas, and discouraged academic studies in the liberal arts.

The ANA took its turn in the struggle for equal rights for blacks, as it was organized shortly after the incorpoartion of legal segregation through the Supreme Court's decision in its 1896 case, Plessy v. Ferguson Du Bois suggested that his notions of a Talented Tenth of African Americans, primarily composed of blacks trained in higher education were responsible for educating masses of black citizens, forced to continue their existence as inferior to whites. Through a publication of works within the Academy's Occasional Papers, it sought to parallel the concept of "trickle-down economics, in which more black intellectuals efforts would trickle down into “his schools, academies and colleges; and then enters his pulpits; and so filters down into his families and his homes…to be a laborer with intelligence, enlightenment and manly ambitions”.[5]

Prominent Members of the American Negro Academy[edit]

Revered Doctor Alexander Crummell, an Episcopal clergymen, trained in theology and a prominent church founder. PhD Francis J. Grimké, a Presbyterian clergymen, trained in theological studies. W.E.B DuBois, founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). John W. Cromwell, a lawyer and politician. Cromwell also held jobs as a newspaper editor for prominent black newspapers. John Hope. Served as president of Morehouse College and Atlanta University. James Weldon Johnson, primarily known for his literary works and position as a civil rights advocate for the NAACP. PhD Kelly Miller, professor of Mathematics, known as the first black graduate student to enroll at Johns Hopkins University.

The Academy's Early Meetings[edit]

The Academy was organized in 1897. It was formed with the intent of using its intellectual members to promote all types of scholarly works. Through letters, art, literature and science, its initial motivation was to create a form of literary enthusiasm, in order to bolster scholarship. Its founding members were deemed by newspaper reports as men who "easily measure up to the higher standard".[6]

The Academy's organization was met with an anticipated reception. Newspaper reports voiced their excitement through a notion that the Academy would have wide possibilities to serve a large audience, mainly seeking to elevate the race through educational enlightenment. Through an assessment of statistical tends, mainly concerning black illiteracy, the Academy-based it work that was to then be published in its Occasional Papers. The scholarly contributions foster the spirit of a newly, legally segregated race.[7]

The Academy generally held an annual meeting at the Lincoln Memorial Church in Washington, D.C., which usually lasted one to two days. A public audience was invited to attend all but the Academy's business meetings, reserved solely for members. The schedule would occupy the entire day. Once the session was called to order, reports were presented by the Academy's secretary and treasurer. During this time, new membership applications to the Academy were considered as well as discussions on current business. In the evening, an annual address was delivered. For example, W.E.B. DuBois presented the Academy's second annual address, and a paper presentation would follow. The following day, after several paper presentations, discussions took place. Discussions centered around the efficacy of a scholar's musings. In order to distribute the works of various Academy members, copies were available upon requests made directly to the Academy's secretary, or through newspaper requests.

Legacy and Efficacy of the American Negro Academy[edit]

Any actual trickle down effect of educational enlightenment the Academy sought has been contested throughout history. Dr. Alfred A. Moss Jr argued the efficacy of the American Negro Academy in his work The American Negro Academy: Voice of the Talented Tenth. In his analysis of a collection of private letters written by Crummell, Moss explains that nearly from the beginning, the Academy was bound to become fully defunct. The organization had an inability to consistently organize and struggled to recruit new members and raise scholarship funds for educational uplift. Moss claims founding member Archibald Henry Grimké writings illustrated a broad understanding of the socio-economic hardships African Americans woke up to, but that his intentions were to solely bolster the success of the Academy.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Publications of the Southern History Association: Volume 9 - Page 49
  2. ^ Smith
  3. ^ University, W.J.M.P.A.C.B. (1989). Alexander Crummell : A Study of Civilization and Discontent: A Study of Civilization and Discontent. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 339. ISBN 9780195364088. Retrieved 2015-04-10. 
  4. ^ Gunter, Donald W. "John Wesley Cromwell (1846–1927)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Crummel, Alexander. "Papers of the American Negro Academy." Project Gutenberg. December 28, 1898.
  6. ^ "Race Echoes." Iowa State Bystander, January 14, 1898, News sec
  7. ^ "An American Negro Academy." The Freeman, February 5, 1898, News sec.


  • American Negro Academy Occasional Papers, Issues 1-22, Ayer Publishing, 1970
  • Moss, Alfred A., The American Negro Academy: Voice of the Talented Tenth, Louisiana State University Press, 1981, ISBN 978-0-8071-0699-0
  • Moses, Wilson Jeremiah, Alexander Crummell: A Study of Civilization and Discontent, Oxford University Press, 1989, pp 365–366: reproduces the organization's bylaws.
  • Peress, Maurice, Dvořák to Duke Ellington: a conductor explores America's music and its African American Roots, Oxford University Press, 2004, pp 54–65.
  • Smith, Jessie Carney, and Wynn, Linda T., Freedom facts and firsts: 400 years of the African American civil rights experience, Visible Ink Press, 2009