Alexander Crummell's father (Boston Crummell) announced to his master that he would
serve him no longer and left for freedom. Alexander was happy to be known
as the boy who's father could not be a slave. Boston Crummell lived in
New York City among the most freedom conscious blacks of the time. Passing
through the Crummell household would be John Russwarm, Samuel Cornish and
other prominent blacks of the time. Among Alexander's classmates at the
New York African School were Henry Highland Garnet, Ira Aldridge and Samuel
Ringgold Ward. Alexander was destined for greatness and his father assured
his academic success by hiring private tutors. |
Until recently, Alexander Crummell was not often discussed in black history
yet his influence on Black people during his time has survived to
this day. He was a scholar, college professor, preacher, advocate for the
emigration of Blacks to Africa and advocate of African self help.
Crummell left the United States in 1847 for England and Liberia for nearly
a quarter century. During his stay in Liberia he worked as a missionary
for the Episcopal Church and professor at Liberia College. Crummell found
the racism of the mulattos in Liberia to be intolerable which caused him
to return to the United States.
In 1873 he returned to Washington DC. There he was appointed "missionary
at large of the colored people." In Washington he planned and realized
his vision of the church in the black community. His vision was that the
black church should be a place of worship and social service. In 1880 he
established Saint Luke's Church that would fulfill his vision. Many younger
black ministers would seek to duplicate Crummell'ss achievements in shaping the
role of the black church in the community. Crummell took the lead in encouraging
black ministers in Washington to join together and establish charitable
institutions for the race. He organized the Black Episcopal clergy to fight
racism in the church.
His contribution to African American life went beyond the doors of the church.
He was instrumental in establishing the American Negro Academy, a national
organization of the best educated an prominent African Americans. There
is little doubt that this organization and Crummell inspired W.E.B. DuBois'
idea of a "talented tenth."
Crummell emphasized African-American self help and the need for education
that was solid and practical. He developed this idea independent of Booker
T. Washington of whom he was highly critical. Alexander Crummell was among
the first black nationalist. His ideas to improve the moral, intellectual,
economic and cultural conditions of black people played an important role
in preparing Blacks for the twentieth century.