The Founding of the Association

In late August of 1915, African Americans from across the country converged on Chicago’s Coliseum to participate in the state of Illinois’ national celebration of the Lincoln Jubilee and the Half-Century of Emancipation. Among those in attendance were two high school teachers from Washington, D. C., William B. Hartgrove and Dr. Carter G. Woodson. On September 9th, Woodson, a Harvard-trained historian, called a meeting with Hartgrove, George Cleveland Hall, A. L. Jackson, and James E. Stamps at the nearby Colored Y. M. C. A., where the Washingtonians had been staying. The class orator for his graduating class at Harvard the previous year, Jackson had only recently been appointed director of the facility. A 1911 graduate of Fisk with a masters in economics from Yale, Stamps worked for Anthony Overton, a leader of the black business community. A physician at Provident Hospital and a leading figure in the Chicago Urban League, George Cleveland Hall was easily the most prominent and accomplished. The small gathering had a high purpose: the creation of an organization to demonstrate to the world a truth that had been everywhere assaulted–that people of African descent had contributed significantly to the making of civilization and the movement of human history. They agreed on a constitution and established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Four months later, Woodson, having brought the Association to life, published the first issue of the Journal of Negro History and gave birth to a field of study. The son of slaves, a scholar with advanced degrees but no academic standing, dared to raise up the truth from where it had been crushed.

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