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Wed, 11.07.1866

James Diggs, Activist, College President, and Pastor born

James Diggs

*James Diggs was born on this date in 1866. He was a Black activist, college president, and pastor. From Upper Marlboro, Maryland, James Robert Lincoln Diggs was the son of John Henry Diggs and Mary Virginia Clark Diggs. Little is known about his childhood or youth.

Diggs lived in Washington, D.C., in 1885 when he converted from Catholicism and joined the city's Nineteenth Street Baptist Church. The following year, he graduated from the normal department of Wayland Seminary, a Washington educational institution for African Americans. Diggs earned degrees from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. from Illinois Wesleyan University. He became the first African American to receive a doctorate in sociology in the United States and the ninth overall to receive any doctorate.

Diggs was a member of the Wayland Seminary faculty when it was merged with Virginia Union University in 1898. He served as the school's head football coach from 1900 to 1901. He was the president of several colleges, including Virginia University of Lynchburg from 1906 to 1908 and Simmons College of Kentucky from 1908 to 1911.

He helped found the Niagara Movement.  He later became a Baptist pastor, leading congregations in Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland. James Diggs died on April 14, 1923.

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