Anson Phelps Stokes (philanthropist)

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Anson Phelps Stokes (13 April 1874 – 13 August 1958) was an American educator, historian, clergyman, author, philanthropist and civil rights activist.


Stokes was one of three men of the same name; his father was multimillionaire banker Anson Phelps Stokes, and his son was Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr., an Episcopal bishop.[1]

He was born in New Brighton on Staten Island, New York, to Anson and Helen Louisa Phelps Stokes, and attended Yale University, graduating in 1896 with a bachelor's degree. At Yale he was inducted into Skull and Bones.[2]:74 He then traveled, mostly in East Asia. In 1897, he entered the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to prepare for the priesthood, and received his bachelor of divinity degree in 1900, although it was not until 1925 that he formally became a priest.[1]

In 1899, Stokes took the post of Secretary of Yale University, second in command to the university's president, and he also served as assistant rector of Saint Paul's Episcopal Church in New Haven, Connecticut, from 1900 to 1918.[1] Stokes was a favorite to replace Arthur T. Hadley as president of Yale in 1921, and was said to have had the support of a majority of the Yale Corporation, but a vociferous minority insisted that an outsider was needed at the helm of the university, and Stokes was passed over for James Rowland Angell.[3]

In December 1903, Stokes married Caroline Mitchell. They had three children: Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr. (1905–1986), Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes II, both born in New Haven, Connecticut, and Olivia Phelps Stokes. Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr. was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1933.[1]

From 1924 to 1939, Stokes was resident canon at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. During this time, he became involved in many social, cultural, and ecclesiastical causes, and guided the philanthropy of the Phelps Stokes Fund (established in 1911) to improve the lives of African and American blacks. In 1936, he published a short biography of Booker T. Washington, which was an expanded version of a sketch he had written for the Dictionary of American Biography.[1]

Stokes saw all of his work as "fellowship in the gospel" (Philemon 1:5).

He died after a lengthy illness in his Lenox, Massachusetts home.[1]


Stokes wrote these works:[1]

  • Memorials of Eminent Yale Men, 2 vols. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1914.
  • Tuskegee Institute — The First Fifty Years, 1931.
  • Art and the Color Line: An Appeal made May 31, 1939 to the President General and Other Officers of the Daughters of the American Revolution to Modify the Rules so as to Permit Distinguished Negro Artists such as Marian Anderson to be Heard in Constitution Hall, Washington, 1939.
  • "Introduction" to Encyclopedia of the Negro; preparatory volume with reference lists and reports, by W. E. B. Du Bois and Guy B. Johnson, prepared with the cooperation of E. Irene Diggs, Agnes C. L. Donohugh, Guion Johnson, et al. New York: The Phelps-Stokes Fund, Inc., 1946.
  • Contributor, Negro Status and Race Relations in the United States, 1911-1946; the Thirty-Five Year Report of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, New York: Phelps-Stokes Fund, 1948.
  • Church and State in the United States, three volumes, 1950.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Grandfather, Father, & Son—The Three Anson Phelps Stokes: Anglo-American Philanthropists". ChickenBones: A Journal: for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  2. ^ Robbins, Alexandra (2002). Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-72091-7.
  3. ^ "Angell Reported Choice at Yale: Anson Phelps Stokes Announces His Resignation as Secretary of the University". The New York Times. 19 February 1921.

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