James Monroe Gregory

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James Monroe Gregory
J M Gregory.jpg
Gregory in 1887
Born (1849-01-23)January 23, 1849
Lexington, Virginia
Died December 17, 1915(1915-12-17) (aged 66)
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Alma mater Howard University, Harvard University
Occupation Professor
Political party Republican

James Monroe Gregory (January 23, 1849 – December 17, 1915) was a Professor of Latin and Dean at Howard University. During the American Civil War, he worked in Cleveland for the education and aid of escaped slaves. He initially attended Oberlin University. He transferred to Howard and was the valedictorian of Howard's first graduating class in 1872. He then became a member of faculty, where he served until the late 1880s. During that time he was active in civil rights, particularly related to the education of African American children. He fought to desegregate Washington DC schools in the early 1880s and participated in the Colored Conventions Movement and was a delegate to the 1892 Republican National Convention. In 1890 he founded the American Association of Educators of Colored Youth. In 1893 he published a biography of Frederick Douglass. In 1897 he was removed at Howard and moved to New Jersey where he became principal of Bordentown Industrial and Manual Training School.

Early life[edit]

James Monroe Gregory was born in Lexington, Virginia on January 23, 1849 to Maria A. (Gladman) Gregory and Henry L., a local minister.[1] During that year they moved to Lynchburg, Virginia. In 1859 they moved to Cleveland, Ohio where James entered public schools. The family moved to La Porte, Indiana and then Chicago, where James attended private and public schools respectively, before returning to Cleveland where he finished grammar school and entered high school. In 1865 he entered the preparatory department of Oberlin College. During his summer vacations, Gregory taught at Freedmen's Bureau schools in La Porte, in Mt. Tabor, Maryland, and in Lynchburg.[1][2] One of his teachers in Cleveland was Laura Spelman.[1] As his studies ended, he was recommended for a cadetship at West Point by General Benjamin F. Butler, but President Andrew Johnson refused to appoint him. While visiting Washington DC to get his appointment papers from Butler, he met General Oliver O. Howard, who was impressed by Gregory and suggested that he (Howard) would like to work with him. Less than a year later, Howard had a letter sent to Gregory offering him a position of instructor in the preparatory department of Howard University, and suggesting he finish his undergraduate studies at the same time at Howard, which Gregory accepted. While still in Ohio, Gregory worked to help escaped and freed slaves, and was secretary of the Fugitives Aid Society in Cleveland, later renamed the Freedmen's Aid Society in Cleveland.[2] When Gregory started at Howard in September 1868, he was the first student in the collegiate department, which had two professors, Eliphalet Whittlesey and William F. Bascom, and the course was based on classical studies of New England colleges.[3]


Howard University[edit]

Gregory moved to Washington, DC, and graduated first in a class of three from Howard in 1872 (the other two were A. C. O'Hear and Josiah T. Settle) and was made tutor of Latin and mathematics in the preparatory department,[2] where he was the only black teacher in the department.[4] In the winter of the next year he married Fannie E. Hagan of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, who had earlier been a student of his. Three years later he was appointed Professor of Latin in the college. In the 1880s, he was made Dean of the collegiate department.[2] He received a master's degree from Harvard University in 1885.[1]

Civil Rights[edit]

Gregory was a leading figure in Civil Rights movement in the 1880s. In 1881, Gregory began a fight for the right to send his children to public schools in Washington. In the course of the dispute, Gregory and George T. Downing discovered that a law before the U.S. House of Representatives creating separate schools for black children. The pair along with Charles Purvis created an organization to fight this discrimination. The group gathered about it many leading civil rights figures, having Frederick Douglass as president, Richard T. Greener as secretary, and also including Frederick G. Barbadoes, John F. Cook, Francis James Grimké, Milton M. Holland, Wiley Lane, William H. Smith, Purvis, Downing, and Gregory. The group was supported by representative Dudley C. Haskell of Kansas and succeeded. In 1883, after the Civil Rights Cases saw civil protections for African Americans overturned by the US Supreme Court, Gregory was one of the organizers of mass meetings in protest which included Douglass, Robert Ingersoll, Samuel Shellaberger, and Jeremiah Rankin. He was a leader of the 1883 National Convention of Colored Men in Louisville, Kentucky, where Gregory was elected temporary and then permanent secretary and fellow DC Delegate Frederick Douglass was made president.[2] In 1893, Gregory published a biography of Frederick Douglass entitled, Frederick Douglass the Orator: Containing an Account of His Life; His Eminent Public Services; His Brilliant Career as Orator; Selections from His Speeches and Writings..


Gregory was also very active in politics. He was frequently mentioned for political appointments. He was secretary of the Republican Central Committee of the District of Columbia for four years in the 1880s.[2] In 1881, he was endorsed by Oliver Howard, Blanche Kelso Bruce, James Monroe, and John M. Brown to be appointed consul at Leeds, England,[5] but did not receive the appointment. On February 27, 1886, Gregory was appointed to the board of trustees of public schools in Washington DC against vehement protest of Democrats and the conservative press, and the next year was made chairman of the committee on teachers and janitors by the board president.[2] He served on the board for six years.[6] In 1887 he was a candidate to replace James Campbell Matthews as Washington, DC Recorder of Deeds, although the position went to William Monroe Trotter.[7] Gregory was again a candidate for the position to succeed Trotter in late 1889,[8] but the position went to Blanche Bruce. Gregory was president of the American Association of Educators of Colored Youth which was he founded in 1890[9] and led throughout its existence.[10] He was a delegate to the 1892 Republican National Convention, and expressed interest in the Recorder of Deeds job again, which in 1893 went to C. H. J. Taylor.[11]

Removal from Howard and principalship in Bordentown[edit]

In 1891, Gregory was in debt and was accused by Daniel Murray and a group of other individuals of inappropriate financial dealings with his students, but the charges were dropped.[12] The accusations resurfaced in 1895, and Gregory was removed as professor at Howard by the board led by University president Jeremiah Rankin, although the move was opposed by black members of the board. Gregory was, at the time, the senior professor of the institution, and the institution was itself in debt, which was used as a reason for the dismissal.[13] Gregory appealed, and his cause was widely supported by students and alumni, but his dismissal was upheld.[11] Gregory sued Murray for libel related to the case, which Gregory withdrew when Murray retracted claims he made.[14]

In 1897, he became principal of the Bordentown Industrial and Manual Training School in Bordentown, New Jersey.[15] Gregory was very successful in this role, and the school grew in enrollment and in quality of facilities during his tenure. The school was based on the methods Booker T. Washington advocated and applied at the Tuskegee Institute[16] Gregory served until February, 1915.[17]

Family and personal life[edit]

Gregory married Fannie E. Hagan of Williamsport, Pennsylvania on December 29, 1873 in Williamsport. Fannie was born in Frederick, Maryland on July 4, 1856. Fannie's mother, Margaret A. Hagen, was born and raised on the property of Judge Roger B. Taney and had been freed by the purchase of her husband. Margaret's mother, Jane, was a daughter of Judge Taney. Margaret's father was Po Mahammitt.[1][18] His oldest son was Eugene M. Gregory, who graduated from Harvard University and was a member of the Harvard Law School.[19] One son, Thomas Montgomery Gregory, was a noted dramatist. Another son was named James Francis Gregory[20] was captain of the Amherst College baseball team in 1898, the first African American to be elected captain of a baseball team in any eastern college[19] and became a Presbyterian minister and vice-principal at the Bordentown School.[21] His daughter, Margaret B. Gregory, was a teacher at Bordentown School (also known as Ironside school).[19] In 1908, James and Thomas went to London to attend the Olympic Games there.[22]

His great-grandson through James Francis was astronaut Frederick Drew Gregory, the first African-American to pilot an American spacecraft.[23]

For many years, Gregory attended Jeremiah Rankin's Washington's First Congregational Church. With Gregory in the congregation were Douglass, John Mercer Langston, Blanche Bruce, and William T. Mitchell and their families.[24]


Gregory died December 17, 1915 at the home of his daughter in Baltimore, Maryland.[10] His funeral was held at the People's Congregational Church in Washington, DC and was conducted by Rev. Francis James Grimké. He was buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[25]


  • Gregory, James Monroe. Frederick Douglass the Orator: Containing an Account of His Life; His Eminent Public Services; His Brilliant Career as Orator; Selections from His Speeches and Writings. Willey & Company, 1893.


  1. ^ a b c d e Cross, June. "The Family That Adopted June, The Gregory Family", Frontline, PBS, accessed November 11, 2016 at https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/secret/readings/gregory.html
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Simmons, William J., and Henry McNeal Turner. Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising. GM Rewell & Company, 1887. p631-646
  3. ^ Logan 1969, p38
  4. ^ Logan 1969, p36
  5. ^ [No Headline] National Republican (Washington, DC) May 11, 1881, page 1, accessed November 11, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7402069/no_headline_national_republican/
  6. ^ Gregory 1893, p6
  7. ^ Our Weekly Review, The Washington Bee (Washington, DC) March 5, 1887, page 4, accessed November 11, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7402176/our_weekly_review_the_washington_bee/
  8. ^ Items on the Wing, The Cinicinatti Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio) November 23, 1889, page 16, accessed November 11, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7402290/items_on_the_wing_the_cinicinatti/
  9. ^ An Educational Association, Richmond Planet (Richmond, Virginia) December 27, 1890, page 5, accessed November 11, 2016, at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7402365/an_educational_association_richmond/
  10. ^ a b Prof. James M. Gregory Dead, The Washington Post (Washington, DC) December 18, 1915, page 9, accessed November 11, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7402985/prof_james_m_gregory_dead_the/
  11. ^ a b Dropped the Professor, Washington Times (Washington, DC) September 26, 1895, page 1, accessed November 11, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7402567/dropped_the_professor_washington_times/
  12. ^ Prof. Gregory Vindicated, The Washington Bee (Washington, DC) June 13, 1891, page 2, accessed November 11, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7402481/prof_gregory_vindicated_the/
  13. ^ James Monroe Gregory, The Washington Bee (Washington, DC) September 7, 1895, page 1, accessed November 11, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7402520/james_monroe_gregory_the_washington/
  14. ^ Made a Retraction, Evening Star (Washington, DC) March 30, 1897, page 3, accessed November 11, 2016 at Made a Retraction, Evening Star (Washington, DC) March 30, 1897, page 3
  15. ^ Fortune, T. Thomas. After War Times: An African American Childhood in Reconstruction-era Florida. University of Alabama Press, 2014. p97
  16. ^ School of Great Promise, The New York Age (New York, New York) September 21, 1905, page 2, accessed November 11, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7402868/school_of_great_promise_the_new_york/
  17. ^ J. M Gregory Out of Bordentown School, The New York Age (New York, New York) February 11, 1915, page 1, accessed November 11, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7403988//
  18. ^ Po Mahammitt is believed to be a person also known as Ali Salaha Mahomet and as Jeremiah Mahammett and is discussed in, Wilson-Fall, Wendy. Memories of Madagascar and Slavery in the Black Atlantic. Ohio University Press, 2015.
  19. ^ a b c James F. Gregory, The Washington Bee (Washington, DC), July 30, 1898, page 4, accessed November 11, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7402787/james_f_gregory_the_washington_bee/
  20. ^ Washington Boys Win Prizes, Evening Star (Washington, DC) June 27, 1896, page 9, accessed November 11, 2016, at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7402711/washington_boys_win_prizes_evening/
  21. ^ [No Headline] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) August 12, 1911, page 6, accessed November 11, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7402924/no_headline_harrisburg_telegraph/
  22. ^ Misunderstood Rules, The New York Age (New York, New York)< September 3, 1908, page 1, accessed November 11, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7402903/misunderstood_rules_the_new_york_age/
  23. ^ Gubert, Betty Kaplan, Miriam Sawyer, and Caroline M. Fannin. Distinguished African Americans in aviation and space science. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002. p143
  24. ^ Logan 1969, p111
  25. ^ Funeral of Prof J M Gregory, The Washington Post (Washington, DC) December 20, 1915, page 14, accessed November 11, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7403017/funeral_of_prof_j_m_gregory_the/
  • Logan, Rayford W. Howard University: The first hundred years, 1867-1967. NYU Press, 1969.