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On this date, we mark the birth of John Hope in 1868, he was an African American civil rights activist and educator.
Born in Augusta, Georgia, his mother was the daughter of an emancipated slave and his father, James Hope, was a white native of Scotland. Though his father left a substantial amount of his estate to the family upon his death, they were deprived of the inheritance. After completing the eighth grade in 1881, young Hope entered Worchester Academy (Massachusetts), graduating with honors in 1890. After enrolling at Brown University that fall, Hope began to perfect his speaking skills while developing his racial consciousness. (He could pass for white, but identified himself as Black.)
He was the Orator for his graduating class in 1894, and shortly after commencement he married Lugenia Burns. His philosophy, when he entered the field of education, was to insist on higher learning for Blacks to make a convincing case for social equality. Hope turned down an offer to teach at Tuskegee Institute, and from 1894 to 1898, instructed in Greek, Latin, and natural sciences at Roger Williams College in Nashville, TN. When this school became Morehouse College, Hope became its first Black president. W. E. B. Du Bois, with whom he had a close, lifelong friendship, shared his views.
He was the only college president to participate in the initial meeting of the Niagara Movement in 1905. This was a civil rights organization founded by a group led by Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter. It was named for the "mighty current" of change the group wanted to bring about and for Niagara Falls, which was near the site of the first meeting. This movement resulted in the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1911.
Other academic accomplishments included president of Atlanta Baptist College (1906) and his 1929 appointment as president of the “new” Atlanta University. This was a consortium that included Morehouse, Spelman College, and Atlanta University. He traveled to France, lobbying for new policies from the YMCA over treatment of Black soldiers, prelude to a life-long commitment to that organizations’ work.
Hope was a pioneer in developing outstanding graduate and professional programs for Black people. John Hope died in Atlanta in 1936.
Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century.
Edited by Leon Litwack and August Meier
Copyright 1998, University if Illinois Press