Creating the Atlanta University System

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


By the 1920s, there were almost one hundred institutions of higher education for blacks throughout the country; most served elementary and secondary students; most had fewer than one hundred college level students.1 It was not logical financially to sustain them all; thus, some black institutions would either close or consolidate. The GEB was at a point where it “could either support existing structures of black education or seek to create something more worthy of support.”2 The GEB chose the latter course and gave money to specific black colleges and universities strategically located in the South (e.g., Nashville, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and Atlanta), which it deemed as most efficient for blacks’ higher education,3 with Atlanta, Georgia, being a major focal point (Appendix A).


Undergraduate College College Enrollment Black College Colored People Black Institution 
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  1. 2.
    Eric Anderson and Alfred A. Moss Jr., Dangerous Donations: Northern Philanthropy and Southern Black Education, 1902–1930, foreword by Louis R. Harlan (Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1990), 101.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Jackson Davis, “Recent Development in Negro Schools and Colleges,” May 25, 1927, box 315, folder 3296, Wallace Buttrick Papers, 1927–1952, RAC; “Leading Institutions,” in ibid.; “Summary: College Reports by Denomination and Control,” in ibid.; Negro Education Report, November 17, 1927, box 315, folder 3295, in ibid.; James D. Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860–1935 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 254–255;Google Scholar
  3. Anderson and Moss Jr., Dangerous Donations, 101; Dwight Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Evolution of the Negro College (New York: Arno and The New York Times, 1969), 174;Google Scholar
  4. and Clarence A. Bacote, The Story of Atlanta University: A Century of Service, 1865–1965 (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1969), 256.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Clifford M. Kuhn, Harlon E. Joye, and E. Bernard West, Living Atlanta: An Oral History of the City, 1914–1948, foreword by Michael Lomax (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1990), 87, 93, 95.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Raymond B. Fosdick, Henry F. Pringle, and Katherine Douglas Pringle, Adventures in Giving: The Story of the General Education Board (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 196. See H. J. Thorkelson, Memorandum of Interview with Doctor George R. Hovey, December 23, 1927, box 315, folder 3294, Wallace Buttrick Papers, GEB, RAC. This document detailed a conversation between Thorkelson, a GEB member, and Hovey, member of the ABHMS. Thorkelson indicated the status of the GEB’s study, “of Negro colleges in the South,” to Hovey and stated that the GEB’s “major interest was in Virginia Union and Morehouse.”Google Scholar
  7. 23.
    Peter Collier and David Horowitz, The Rockefellers (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1976), 157.Google Scholar
  8. 31.
    Lucy Tapley to Trevor Arnett, February 25, 1925, Read Papers, SCA. Upon retirement, Tapley was named president emeritus. Florence M. Read, The Story of Spelman College (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1961), 209.Google Scholar
  9. 41.
    Jno. J. Tigert to Department of the Interior, March 15, 1928, in Arthur Klein, Survey of Negro Colleges and Universities, 2nd ed. (New York: Negro Universities Press, 1929; reprinted 1969), vi.Google Scholar
  10. 64.
    Ridgely Torrence, The Story of John Hope, with an introduction by Rayford Logan (New York: Macmillan, 1948; reprint, New York: Arno and The New York Times, 1969), 292–293.Google Scholar
  11. 80.
    Atlanta University Board of Trustees Minutes, February 25–26, 1929, Hope Records, AUC. The representatives from Atlanta University were Myron Adams, James Weldon Johnson, Willis D. Weatherford, and Will W. Alexander. John Hope and Florence Read were the representatives from Morehouse and Spelman, respectively, and as a trustee for both Morehouse and Spelman, George Rive Hovey was in attendance. Read was appointed secretary at this meeting. See Bacote, Story of Atlanta University, 267; 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), 305; Read, Story of Spelman College, 233; and Torrence, Story of John Hope, 300.Google Scholar
  12. 96.
    Kuhn, Joye, and West, Living Atlanta, 155; John Hope Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of American Negroes, 2nd ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), 539; Holmes, Evolution of the Negro College, 195; Jones, Candle in the Dark, 114; Julian B. Roebuck and Komanduri S. Murty, Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Their Place in American Higher Education (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, an imprint of Greenwood Publishing Group), 54: and Read. Story of Sbelman College, 229.Google Scholar

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© Vida L. Avery 2013

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