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Members of American Negro Academy

The American Negro Academy (ANA) was founded in Washington DC in 1897.  It was a society of black intellectuals committed to promoting, education, arts, and science among African Americans. The organization was founded by Alexander Crummell, a well know literary and religious figure. The ANA had five primary objectives:  defense of the Negro against vicious assaults, publication of scholarly works, fostering higher education among negroes, formulation of intellectual taste, and the promotion of literature, science and art.  It was the first organization of its kind in the United States to convene black artists and scholars from across the globe.  It was also the first organization of blacks that would promote the, “talented tenth” concept later espoused by W.E.B DuBois.  The “talented tenth” concept originated in 1896 from the American Baptist Home Mission Society, a Christian group of northern white liberals that was heavily supported by John D. Rockefeller.  Their goal was to establish black colleges in the south primarily to train black educators.  W.E.B. DuBois used the term to describe how it was likely that one in 10 black men would become leaders of their race through education, writing books or becoming involved in social activism. DuBois believed that it would be through the efforts and accomplishments of the talented tenth that the African Americans as a whole would prosper and achieve racial equality.

Dubois was adamant in his belief that blacks needed a “classical” education to be successful in reaching their potential.  He was against blacks only receiving industrial training that was promoted by Booker T. Washington and other white philanthropists. Later in life, DuBois, softened his views regarding the talented tenth; acknowledging that blacks from all classes and walks of life played a part in elevating the status of the group as a whole. ANA was an all male organization with members from the fields of law, medicine, literature, religion, and community activism.    ANA published a number of scholarly works at a time when most mainline universities and other scholarly institutions gave little attention or focus to the literary or scholarly works by, or about, African Americans. The ANA published many pieces of literature that analyzed the role and impact of African Americans in the United States.

When Alexander Crummell died in 1908, W.E.B DuBois became president of the ANA. During the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s the ANA had all but waned. By 1924, it appears that group had disbanded. The organization was revived decades later by a group of artists, entertainers, and journalists.  Their initial meetings were held in October and December of 1968.  These meetings resulted in the creation of the “Black Academy of Arts and Letters” (BAAL) to carry on the tradition started by the ANA.

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