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The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Topic: FreedomTopic: IdentityTopic: InstitutionsTopic: PoliticsTopic: Forward
Topic: Institutions
Toolbox Overview: The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Resource Menu: Institutions
Text 1. Power
» Reading Guide
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Text 2. Associations (I)
Text 3. Associations (II)
Text 4. Education
Text 5. Leadership
Text 6. Religion
Text 7. Business
Text 8. Family
RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
1.  Power
- Rev. Alexander Crummell, "The Social Principle among a People and Its Bearing on Their Progress and Development," Thanksgiving Day sermon, Washington, D.C., 1875, excerpts
    Rev. Alexander Crummell

Alexander Crummell, born in New York City in 1819, is generally considered the leading black intellectual of the nineteenth century. He received his early education in Manhattan and in 1839 graduated from the Oneida Theological Institute in Oneida, New York. Prevailing over racial prejudice that threw up obstacles to his further theological training, he was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1844. He received a divinity degree from Queens College, Cambridge, in 1853, and after graduation went to Liberia, where for twenty years he ministered, taught, and promoted Liberian nationalism. Returning to the United States, he devoted himself to promoting urban black congregations, founding St. Luke's Church in Washington, D.C., which he led for twenty years.

In this sermon he calls for racial solidarity and self-help, forcefully addressing the question of why African Americans should have their own distinctive institutions. For him, the salvation of the race did not lie in political action, but rather in the application of the "social principle," the fundamental impulse that leads people to "join together for specific purposes." It, rather than the "wind and vanity" of political action, would rescue black men and women from aimless drifting and deliver them to "the deep, quiet waters of the fullest freedom and equality." He argues that institution building and racial identity are inextricably intertwined, one supporting the other, and from their combination will come the power that African Americans need to survive in a hostile environment. 3 pages.


Discussion questions
  1. Who was the audience for this sermon?
  2. What does this sermon suggest about the role of the African American church at this time?
  3. According to Crummell, what is the state of the black community in 1875?
  4. How does Crummell define power?
  5. What, for him, are the roots of power?
  6. What, for him, are the roots of character?
  7. For Crummell, what is the relationship between power and character?
  8. How, in his view, does the individual relate to the group?

» Link


Topic Framing Questions
  •  What roles did institutions play in African American life at this time?
  •  In what ways did institutions shape and reflect African American identity?




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