Layers of Complexity

  • Vida L. Avery
Part of the Philanthropy and Education book series (PHILAED)


Academics versus vocationalism. Racism versus progressivism. Growth versus regression or stagnation. Irony, paradox, and ambiguity were the mélange of social constructs and life perspectives that collectively capture the complexity of the reality faced by Hope, the GEB, and the Rockefellers, as they worked to create true higher education institutions for blacks. In practical terms, this mélange took form as two broad overlapping layers. Unique insight was required to reconcile the confusing array. Rockefeller Sr.’s systematic methodology honed in his business enterprises, along with the GEB’s analysis and investigative approach, had to combine with John Hope’s inspirational leadership to solve the problems faced by Atlanta’s three nascent black institutions providing higher education.


Black College Missionary School Missionary Society Black Teacher Black Institution 
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  1. 1.
    Bacote, Story of Atlanta University, 5. McGuffey’s Reader were primer series of readers for children created by William Holmes McGuffey in 1836. These readers were used in schools to emphasize morality and Americanism. Besides training students in English and grammar, these texts introduced poetry and the writings of statesmen, politicians, moralists, and religious leaders. Kevin Ryan and James Cooper, Those Who Can, Teach, 7th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995), 153; McGuffy’s Reader, 4th ed. (New York: American Book, 1879).Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 28; Bacote, Story of Atlanta University, 27; Jones, Candle in the Dark, 34; and Leroy Davis, A Clashing of the Soul: John Hope and the Dilemma of African American Leadership and Black Higher Education in the Early Twentieth Century, with a foreword by John Hope Franklin (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1998), 106.Google Scholar
  3. 14.
    Edward A. Jones, A Candle in the Dark: A History of Morehouse College (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson, 1967), 66. See “Amended Charter of 1897,” Appendix D, in Historical Statement: Atlanta University, February 5, 1921, box 96, folder 6, Hope Records, AUC, 318.Google Scholar
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    College History, SCB, 5; Ron Chernow, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (New York: Random House, 1998), 309.Google Scholar
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    Historical Statement: Spelman College, box 96, folder 6, Hope Records, AUC; Chernow, Titan, 240; Atlanta University, October 1929, Spelman Messenger, SCA; Florence M. Read, The Story of Spelman College (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1961), 81–111. When Packard and Giles wrote to Rockefeller initially for money for the institution, they asked for permission to rename the seminary, “Rockefeller College,” and if he did not want to use his name, perhaps they could use his wife’s maiden of Spelman. Ibid., 80. Chernow noted that Rockefeller never allowed any institution to “stake a claim on him,” especially since “Rockefeller had never matriculated and graduated from a college.” Chernow, Titan, 309. Both the ABHMS and WABHMS boards agreed with the name change and agreed “that the institution was to be kept as a school for girls and women.” Interestingly, the boards did not want either “Female” or “Baptist” in the institutions name. Regarding the denomination, the board felt the use of “Baptist” in the name would “repel desirable students.” Read. Story of Spelman College, 84.Google Scholar
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© Vida L. Avery 2013

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  • Vida L. Avery

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