The American Negro Academy (ANA) was the first organization in the United States to support African-American academic scholarship. It operated from 1897 to 1928, and encouraged classical academic studies and liberal arts.
It was formed to provide support to classic scholarship, in contrast to Booker T. Washington's approach to education. Washington's Tuskegee University emphasized vocational and industrial training for southern blacks, as he thought this was more practical for the lives most would live in the segregated South, where most blacks lived in rural areas.
The founders of the ANA were primarily authors, scholars, and artists. They included Alexander Crummell, an Episcopal priest and Republican from New York City; John Wesley Cromwell of Washington, DC; Paul Laurence Dunbar, poet and writer in Washington; Walter B. Hayson, and Kelly Miller. Crummell served as the first president.
Their first meeting on March 5, 1897 included eighteen members:
- Blanche K. Bruce
- Levi J. Coppin
- William H. Crogman
- John Wesley Cromwell
- Dr. Alexander Crummell, an Episcopal clergyman, trained in theology and a prominent church founder.
- W.E.B DuBois, scholar and activist, a co-founder in 1909 of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
- Paul Lawrence Dunbar
- William H. Ferris
- Francis J. Grimké, PhD a Presbyterian clergymen, trained in theological studies.
- Benjamin F. Lee
- Kelly Miller, PhD professor of Mathematics, known as the first black graduate student to enroll at Johns Hopkins University.
- William S. Scarborough
- John H. Smythe
- Theophilus G. Steward
- T. McCants Stewart
- Benjamin Tucker Tanner
- Robert Heberton Terrell
- Richard R. Wright
Other prominent members
- John Hope, president of Morehouse College and Atlanta University
- James Weldon Johnson, writer and civil rights advocate for the NAACP
- Orishatukeh Faduma, missionary and educator
- Robert Pelham Jr., journalist, civil servant, and civil rights activist
The Academy was organized in 1897 in Washington, D.C. Black newspapers expressed excitement that the Academy would have wide possibilities to serve a large audience, seeking to elevate the race through educational enlightenment. Through an assessment of statistical tends, mainly concerning black illiteracy, the Academy-based its work that was to then be published in its Occasional Papers. The scholarly contributions aided the spirit of blacks who were being forced into legal segregation in southern states.
The Academy generally held an annual meeting of one-two days at the Lincoln Memorial Church in Washington, D.C. 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. 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. Du Bois presented the Academy's second annual address. A presentation of a paper 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
The ANA took its turn in the struggle for equal rights for blacks. It was organized shortly after the United States Supreme Court had upheld the principle of "separate but equal" in the 1896 case, Plessy v. Ferguson.
Du Bois suggested that a Talented Tenth of African Americans, primarily composed of blacks trained in classical higher education, could lead in educating masses of black citizens. Most of the latter would work in rural or unskilled jobs; in the South they suffered second-class status. Through a publication of works among the Academy's Occasional Papers, the group wanted to expand the reach of its scholarship, and to aid black intellectuals' efforts having influence on “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”.
Scholars have disputed the influence of the Academy. 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 was unable to consistently organize; it struggled to recruit new members, and to raise scholarship funds for educational uplift of more students. Moss claims that founding member Archibald Henry Grimké expressed in his writings an understanding of the difficulties and socio-economic hardships among African Americans, but that he was more concerned with the success of the Academy.
- 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.
- Gunter, Donald W. "John Wesley Cromwell (1846–1927)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
- Seraile, William. Bruce Grit: The Black Nationalist Writings of John Edward Bruce. Univ. of Tennessee Press, 2003. p110-111
- Hall, Steven Gilroy. "Cromwell, John Wesley," in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, eds. Anthony Appiah, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Oxford University Press, 2005
- Publications of the Southern History Association: Volume 9 - Page 49
- "An American Negro Academy." The Freeman, February 5, 1898, News sec.
- 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