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

By August Meier

To lecturers of African American background, August Meier is easily revered as a first-rank pupil and editor. yet few everyone is conscious of his formative studies within the twenty years following international warfare II, as a white professor educating at black faculties and as an activist within the civil rights stream. This quantity brings jointly 16 of his essays written among 1945 and 1965. Meier has additional a considerable creation, reflecting on these years and environment the context within which the essays have been written. John H. Bracey Jr. contributes an afterword which speaks to the distinctiveness of Meier's adventure between historians of African American experiences.

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While in Washington I lived at Carver Hall (built by the government to house black men who came to Washington to work during the war and now owned by Howard, which still accepted many non-students as residents), and I took breakfast and lunch at the university. Here of course I came to know John Hope Franklin, whose house was always open; Sterling Brown; Alain Locke, who filled me with gossipy tidbits about the Harlem Renaissance period; Rayford W. Logan; E. Franklin Frazier; Inabel Burns Lindsay, the head of the school of social work; the anthropologist Mark Hanna Watkins; and Emmett Dorsey, the political scientist who later was the first Howard University faculty member to obtain a microfilm copy and read my dissertation.

The question of ethnic identity was of course a constant presence. Anti-Semitism was talked about (especially after the rise of Hitler in Germany) and minimally experienced, but my parents resolutely taught my brother and me that we Page 4 were neither German nor Jewish but simply Americanan assimilationist (and anti-Zionist) ethic that would prove enormously important in shaping my later life. For my mother (who was a teacher and school principal) and my father (who was a chemist) intellectual interests were high on the agenda, and from the reading of serious books to the cultivation of appreciation for classical music, they passed this quality on to us.

Johnson, peeved at a satirical piece I had written about Fisk for a student magazine, used the occasion of a structural change in faculty arrangements to fail to renew my contract. At Fisk, as at Tougaloo, a brush with an authoritarian college president put me out of a job. My departure from Fisk came at a time when my dissertation was still unfinished. Fortunately I had very supportive parents, and I spent the academic year 19561957 putting the final touches on what turned out to be an opus of nearly a thousand pages.

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