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Alexander Crummell: An Apostle of Negro Culture The American Negro Academy. Occasional Papers No. 20   By: (1873-1941)

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American Negro Academy

Alexander Crummell An Apostle of Negro Culture



R. L. Pendleton Printer


A noted English lawyer author has declared that the twelfth chapter of Ecclesiastes is the final word of the world's philosophy; that no ancient or modern thinker has uttered a profounder word. And in the seventh verse of that chapter it reads, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."

Metaphysicians tell us that through his five senses, man is in touch with and in relation to his physical environment and a physical world, and that through his reason, imagination, conscience, aesthetic and religious intuitions, man is in touch with and in relation to his spiritual environment and a spiritual world. They also tell us that at death, the soul and body merely part company and go their respective ways. The oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and other chemical elements in the body mingle with the material elements from which they came. And the soul of man, the ego, the center of self consciousness, recognitive memory and reflective thought, which has maintained its identity amid the changes of the physical organism, will survive the destruction of that organism and live on and on in the spirit world, embodied in whatever form and clothed with whatever garments its Maker so decreed.

Scientists tell us that when you throw a pebble in a stream, it sets up a series of ever widening circles until it reaches the shore. They tell us that when you utter an audible sound, you start in motion sound waves which travel on for miles and miles. So it is with the influence of a human personality. It does not end at the grave. It lives in the lives that have been inspired, in the example set and the thoughts thrown out.

Twenty years and three months have elapsed since the soul of Alexander Crummell bid its bodily partner farewell and took its flight to its spiritual home. But Alexander Crummell's terrestial influence did not end thus. It still goes on and will go on for centuries. We will briefly review his life and career and then estimate the weight, worth and significance of the ideas which he advocated, for which he lived and which were incarnated in his personality.

The Rev. Dr. Alexander Crummell, the Negro apostle of culture, was a born autocrat, a man born to command. And men instinctively bowed before him. Some even trembled before his wrath.

Crummell was born in New York in 1819, nearly a century ago. He was the son of Boston Crummell, a prince of the warlike Temene tribe, who was stolen while a boy playing on the sands of the seashore. At first, Crummell, with George T. Downing attended a school in New York taught by the Reverend Peter Williams, then went to the school in Canaan, New Hampshire, which was hauled into the pond by those who were angry because the Negro was taught to read. Crummell with others took refuge in a barn. They were fired upon; but Henry Highland Garnet fired a return shot, at which they were allowed to depart in peace. Then Crummell attended the Oneida Institute, of which Beriah Green was the President. He became a priest in the Episcopal Church, was for twenty years a missionary on the west coast of Africa, during which period he visited seventy tribes. He returned to this country in the late sixties or the early seventies, was for a year or two rector of St. Philip's Church, New York, and for twenty three years rector of the St. Luke's Church in Washington, D. C. The last years of his life were spent in issuing his race tracts and founding the American Negro Academy, the first body to bring Negro scholars from all over the world together. He died at Point Pleasant, N. J., in Dr. Matthew Anderson's summer home in September, 1898, in his eightieth year... Continue reading book >>

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