William Hooper Councill

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William Hooper Councill

William Hooper Councill (1848–1909) was a former slave and the first president of Huntsville Normal School, which is today Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University in Normal, Alabama.[1]

He was born a slave in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1848 and taken to Huntsville, Alabama, by slave traders in 1857. He and his mother and brothers were sold as slaves from the auction block, at Green Bottom Inn to Judge David Campbell Humphreys. At this auction he saw two of his brothers sold in 1857, and never heard from again.[2] He attended a school opened by northerners in Stevenson, Alabama, in 1865 and remained until 1867, when he began teaching. During Reconstruction after the American Civil War, he held minor political positions in Alabama, and taught for a time at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia and edited a newspaper in Huntsville, Alabama. In 1873 he served as secretary to the National Equal Rights Convention. He was appointed as president to AAMU in 1876 after he gave his political support to conservatives. In 1883, he became part of the Supreme Court of Alabama.[1][clarification needed]

As a contemporary of Booker T. Washington, he and Washington (who performed research at Tuskeegee Institute) often competed for favors and funds from the Alabama legislature and northern philanthropists.

In 1887 Councill attracted wide attention when he complained to the Interstate Commerce Commission of harsh treatment on the Alabama railroad. That action later prompted his superiors to relieve him of his duties as president of AAMU for one year. That experience may have helped alter his position on the proper role for a Black man to play in the South during that era, because afterwards, he advocated accommodation and acceptance of his "unctuous sycophancy," which prompted Washington to characterize him as "simply toadying to White people."[3]

Under his leadership, AAMU was second only to Tuskegee Institute in size among Alabama Negro industrial schools.

The first high school for blacks in Huntsville was named for him when it opened in 1867. William Hooper Councill High School closed after the schools were integrated in the 1960s.[4]


  1. ^ a b D. W. Culp, ed., Twentieth Century Negro Literature, Or, A Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to the American Negro Naperville, Illinois: J. L. Nichols & Co., 1902, OCLC 837541, p. 325. Released as an ebook on July 6, 2006 EBook #18772 by The Project Gutenberg
  2. ^ Dennis William Simpson, The Descendants of Doctor William Simpson, Chelsea, Michigan: Bookcrafters, 1993, OCLC 30978656, pp. 47–48.
  3. ^ August Meier, Negro Thought in America, 1880–1915: Racial Ideologies in the Age of Booker T. Washington, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1963, repr. 1988, ISBN 9780472642304, pp. 77, 110.
  4. ^ William Hooper Councill High School Site 1892 – 1966, Historic Markers, City of Huntsville, 2010.