Negro Academy

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The American Negro Academy (ANA) was the first organization that supported African-American scholarship. It was formed to provide an alternative to Booker T. Washington's approach to education and scholarship. The ANA, which operated from 1897 to 1928,[1] encouraged academic studies and liberal arts, in contrast to Washington's Tuskegee University, based on what was called the Atlanta compromise, emphasising vocational and industrial training for southern blacks.

Founder members[edit]

Its founders were primarily composed of authors, scholars, and artists. They included Alexander Crummell, an Episcopal priest and staunch Republican from New York City;[2] John Wesley Cromwell;[3] Paul Laurence Dunbar; Walter B. Hayson, and Kelly Miller. Crummell served as the first president.

The first meeting on March 5, 1897 included eighteen members, including:

Other prominent members[edit]

Early meetings[edit]

The Academy was organized in 1897 in Washington D.C.[6] It 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[edit]

The ANA took its turn in the struggle for equal rights for blacks, as it was organized shortly after the incorporation 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”.[8]

Any actual trickle down effect of educational enlightenment the Academy sought has been contested throughout history. Dr. Alfred A. Moss Jr argued for its efficacy in 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. ^ Smith
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Gunter, Donald W. "John Wesley Cromwell (1846–1927)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Seraile, William. Bruce Grit: The Black Nationalist Writings of John Edward Bruce. Univ. of Tennessee Press, 2003. p110-111
  5. ^ Hall, Steven Gilroy. Cromwell, John Wesley, in eds. Anthony Appiah, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience Oxford University Press, Mar 16, 2005
  6. ^ Publications of the Southern History Association: Volume 9 - Page 49
  7. ^ "An American Negro Academy." The Freeman, February 5, 1898, News sec.
  8. ^ Crummel, Alexander. "Papers of the American Negro Academy." Project Gutenberg. December 28, 1898.


  • 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