A White Scholar and the Black Community, 1945-1965: Essays by August Meier

By August Meier

To lecturers of African American heritage, August Meier is easily revered as a first-rank student and editor. yet few individuals are conscious of his formative reviews within the 20 years following international warfare II, as a white professor educating at black faculties and as an activist within the civil rights move. This quantity brings jointly 16 of his essays written among 1945 and 1965. Meier has extra a considerable creation, reflecting on these years and surroundings the context within which the essays have been written. John H. Bracey Jr. contributes an afterword which speaks to the distinctiveness of Meier's event between historians of African American stories.

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I still had more research, and virtually all of my writing to do. Dorothy Porter had informed me about the unprocessed American Missionary Association archives at Fisk, and since I needed part-time employment, suggested I explore with Bontemps the possibility of working on these. Bontemps agreed to take up the matter with President Charles S. Johnson, who was fortunately in town, and next day I had a conference with the well-known sociologist and southern black moderate. At the end of an hour of rather exhaustive and careful querying about my research and my thinking about it, he offered me a position that had nothing to do with the AMA papers; I became, in fact, a research assistant to Charles S.

Still there were hotels in the South that to varying degrees were willing to serve blacks at professional meetings, the result in large part of the changing mores in the upper South that were occurring in the postwar period. I knew in a general way from my years at Fisk that there had been some movement in a positive direction, a trend supported by such scholars as C. Vann Woodward; and I attended the 1954 convention in Memphis at the Peabody Hotel, where one of the speakers at a dinner meeting with addresses on the topic of school desegregation was Morehouse College president Benjamin Mays.

In fact, I have always had the feeling that if I had been teaching farther south I would never have become involved. Certainly I did not want to get into violent situations, nor did I even want to be arrested. Baltimore, where blacks had a strong political presence and where public and police treatment of the demonstrators lacked the hostility found in states farther south, provided a milieu in which I felt I could function. In any event what happened that February of 1960 was that after the Morgan students had undertaken their demonstrations protesting exclusion from the restaurant at a branch of one of the downtown department stores in the Northwood shopping center, it was proposed that they hold a demonstration on a Sunday afternoon when Baltimore's leading department store was having a major reception to celebrate the store's renovation.

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