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's 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.