Alexander Crummells remarkable career spanned much of the 19th Century. Before the Civil War Crummell had established his credentials as an abolitionist, educator and lecturer in England as well as the United States. In the 1850s he was a member of the faculty of Liberia College. After the war he served as a priest in the Episcopal Church and founded St. Lukes Church in Washington, D.C. He was also on the faculty of Howard University. In 1897, at the age of 78 he founded the American Negro Academy, an organization of black intellectuals who through speeches and writings sought to repudiate the scientific racism of the day which purportedly described black inferiority. On December 28, 1897, Crummell presented the annual address to the Academy. His speech entitled The Attitude of the American Mind Toward the Negro Intellect, appears below.
For the first time in the history of this nation the colored people of America have undertaken the difficult task, of stimulating and fostering the genius of their race as a distinct and definite purpose. Other and many gatherings have been made, during our own two and a half centuries residence on this continent, for educational purposes; but ours is the first which endeavors to rise up to the plane of culture. For my own part I have no misgivings either with respect to the legitimacy, the timeliness, or the prospective success of our venture.
The race in the brief period of a generation, has been so fruitful in intellectual product, that the time has come for a coalescence of powers, and for reciprocity alike in effort and appreciation. I congratulate you, therefore, on this your first anniversary. To me it is, I confess, a matter of rejoicing that we have, as a people, reached a point where we have a class of men who will come together for purposes, so pure, so elevating, so beneficent, as the cultivation of mind, with the view of meeting the uses and the needs of our benighted people. I feel that if this meeting were the end of this Academy; if I could see