The Journal of Negro History
Volume XIII – January, 1928 – No. 1
This annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History was a record-breaking convention. Such was the general opinion expressed by all who were present. The day sessions were well attended, and the evening sessions were so attractive that the people had to be turned away for lack of seating capacity in the large auditorium of the Ebenezer Baptist Church.
The first feature of the meeting was the Get-Acquainted Dinner at five o’clock on the 24th, given by the citizens of Pittsburgh. This served well the purpose for which it was intended. After the informal introduction of the visitors, the guests sat down to a delightful repast which all enjoyed. At this point, Mr. A.H. Gordon, of the State College at Orangeburg, South Carolina, delivered a well-prepared discourse, “The Struggle of the Negroes of South Carolina for Physical Freedom.” Mr. Garnett C. Wilkinson, First Assistant Superintendent of Public Schools of the District of Columbia, spoke of the interest of his teachers in the work of the Association and what they are now doing to aid it. Dr. J.C. Anderson, Dr. J.H. Robinson, Miss Rachel Taylor, Miss Jean Hamilton, and Mrs. Daisy E. Lampkin also made interesting after-dinner speeches. The guests were further entertained in this fashion at evening tea on Tuesday and Wednesday by Miss Grace Lowndes, Mrs. Addie Fox, and other ladies of the reception committee.
The Musical Festival, at 8:00 P.M. on the same day, was one of the greatest ever held anywhere at any time. Mr. L.P. Jackson, of the Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute, appeared first with an informing address on Negro Music. Then followed an interpretation of Negro music in the joint recital of Clarence Cameron White, the noted violinist, and Mrs. Charlotte Wallace Murray, the well-known contralto. Both were at their best. They were inspired by the enthusiasm of a large and appreciative audience which in turn was inspired by them. Everyone present left the auditorium singing the praises of the artists and rejoicing over the idea of inculcating an appreciation of what the Negro has contributed to civilization.
At the first meeting session on Tuesday, the 25th, at 10:30 A.M., Dr. W.R. Brown of Pittsburgh presided. In appropriate language he presented Dr. B.F. Glass, who delivered the welcome address, by the warm-heartedness of which the visitors were made to feel at home. Bishop R.A Carter, of Chicago, responded on behalf of the Association with words which appropriately expressed the feeling of the representatives from various parts. These delegates were then introduced and were given an opportunity to report in brief on what is being done for the work in their respective localities. Among the visitors who thus spoke were: Mrs. Ella P. Stewart, of the Toledo Branch of the Association, Mr. D.R. Clarke, of the St. Louis Branch, Mr. W.E. Griffin, of the Kansas City Branch, Mr. E.P. Southall of Norfolk, and Dr. E.W. Moore of California.
At 3:30 P.M., the Association reassembled for a session in celebration of the centennial of the Negro newspaper. Mr. R.L. Vann, editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, presided. Taking the chair, he gave a resume’ of the Negro newspapers before the Civil War, showing the courage, honesty of purpose and spirit of sacrifice of their founders. Dr. George F. Bragg, of Baltimore, then delivered his address, “Negro Editors as I knew them Fifty Years ago.”
His discourse showed the results of extensive preparation and was so delivered as to leave a favorable impression. Mr. Charles S. Johnson, Editor of Opportunity, appeared next with a most illuminating treatment of the “Rise of the Negro Magazine.” He explained how the Negro magazine developed from the newspaper and evaluated the service it has rendered. A general discussion of some importance followed.
At 8:00 P.M., the leading thought of the session was the Negro internationally considered a century ago. Mr. Garnett C. Wilkinson presided. The attendance was unusually large. Mr. L.L. McKenzie, of the West Virginia Collegiate Institute, entertained the audience with a paper entitled, “The Effect of the American Revolution on the Status of the Negro”; Prof. Charles H. Wesley deeply impressed his hearers with a review of the struggle of Hayti and Liberia for recognition; and Prof. N. Andrew N. Cleven, of the University of Pittsburgh, addressed the meeting on the “Negro in the Panama Congress of 1825.” These addresses, centering around a common point of agreement, were unusually informing and gave the audience a new idea of the serious work of the Association.
As there had arisen a necessity for changing the hour of the business session, it took place on Wednesday morning at 9:30 A.M. instead of at 1:00 P.M. as scheduled. The reports of the officers were duly made, commented on, and adopted. The Association was so well pleased with the work thus reported that the acting Secretary, Mr. L.P. Jackson, was, by vote to this effect, instructed to cast the unanimous ballot of the body for the reelection of the present corps of officers. Plans for the more successful prosecution of the work were then bought forward and discussed in detail. Inasmuch as these did not get beyond the point of helpful suggestions, however, no definite action was taken, except to approve the plan for the organization of branches which involved a change of the constitutional requirement of five members for a club so as to provide for ten members for a branch.
At 10:30 A.M., with President John W. Davis of the West Virginia Collegiate Institute presiding, “The Round Table of the Branches” was called to order. He mentioned the early expansion of the Association, first through study clubs, and recently through the organization of the larger groups. Representatives of these branches were then asked to express their views on what a branch should be and how it may function in cooperation with the central office in Washington. These reports, which cannot be mentioned here in detail, were most important for the reason that here the workers from various parts of the country had the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others. It was well brought out, too, that while the general purposes of the branches may be the same for all, the efforts in carrying out these purposes must vary according to local needs and conditions. There arose the question as to whether or not juvenile groups shall be organized in the branches; and it was voted that such a plan be recommended to the Business Committee with power to act.
At 1:00 P.M., according to the invitation from the H.J. Heinz Company, the members of the Association went in a body to the spacious Dining Room of this establishment, where ninety-six of them, escorted by Mrs. Addie Fox, who arranged the affair, were served an elaborate luncheon. At the end of the repast, one of the officers of the firm made an address of welcome. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, President John W. Davis, Miss Nannie H. Burroughs, and Dr. W.A. Talley responded to this address. All then left the Dining Room to be escorted through the factories.
After this the delegates returned to the Ebenezer Baptist Church to hold the afternoon session devoted to the discussion of the Negro story. Mr. E.C. Roberts, head of the Academic Department of Tuskegee Institute, presided. In his introductory remarks he gave his own views as to the importance of the Negro story in the training of the child and mentioned results which he had had the opportunity to test. Mr. W.E. Griffin, of the Kansas City Branch, was then introduced to speak on “Story-Telling in the Schools.” He approached the subject from the psychological point of view. The Negro, he said, suffers now from an unfortunate state of mind which may be changed by teaching him something about himself, something to convince him that he can do what others have done. Mr. Griffin expressed the belief that the teaching of Negro stories will do much in this direction. He had made some investigation as to the extent to which it is now being done, and what he had learned is sufficient to encourage him. Next spoke Mrs. Lucy Harth Smith, of Lexington, Kentucky. In a well-prepared address she deeply impressed the audience with the pedagogic value of the Negro story in discussing it from the point of view of the teacher. She expressed the thought that there cannot be much hope for the American Negro unless he is stimulated by the ideals and the aspirations of his own group. President R.P. Sims, of the Bluefield Institute, was equally interesting in his remarks on the Negro story from the point of view of the parent. Speaking as both a parent and a teacher, he made a favorable impression. The discussion was closed by Dr. T.W. Wallace, of Pittsburgh, with an illuminating and well-delivered address on the Negro story from the point of view of the minister. He believes that the Negro minister may be a great force in popularizing the Negro story.
The evening session of the last day, Wednesday at 8:00 P.M., was devoted to the discussion of “The Social Value of Negro History.” Mr. S.W. Rutherford, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Association, presided. In calling the meeting to order Mr. Rutherford duly emphasized the importance of the work of the Association and praised those who have made sacrifices to maintain it. Dr. Alain L. Locke, of Washington, D.C., then spoke on recent efforts for the discovery of African Art. His address showed an intelligent grasp of the subject and the ability to present it. Dr. Carter G. Woodson spoke on the importance of teaching Negro history to uproot propaganda. By a forceful address Miss Nannie H. Burroughs emphasized the duty the Negro owes to himself to learn his own story and the duty the white man owes to himself to learn of the spiritual strivings and achievements of a despised but not an inferior people.
Thus came to a close one of the most important meetings ever held in Pittsburgh, and probably the most successful meeting the Association has ever held. The attendance from afar was the largest in the history of the effort, the attendance from the local people was the largest so far recorded by the Association, and the interest manifested by all far exceeded that of any other conference.
The success of the conference may be estimated to some extent by the fact that many persons pledged themselves to take the work more seriously and five persons joined the Association as life members. These were Mrs. Ella P. Stewart, Miss Nannie H. Burroughs, Mr. D.R. Clarke, Dr. Alain Locke, and Dr. Thomas F. Bragg. Among those renewing their interest in the work and expressing the desire to do something effective for it were Mrs. Addie Fox, Dr. George Winstead, and Miss Grace Lowndes.