African American educator, religious leader, and champion of racial equality, John Hope (1868-1936) early advocated liberal education for black youth and formed the first consortium of African American colleges in America.
John Hope was born in Augusta, Ga., on June 3, 1868. He finished the eighth grade, then worked in a restaurant. Encouraged to seek further schooling, in 1886 Hope enrolled in the Worcester Academy in Massachusetts. In 1890 he entered Brown University on a scholarship. Graduating in 1894, he was the commencement orator. That year Hope took a position at Roger Williams University in Nashville. He married Lugenia Burns in 1897; the couple had two sons.
Hope joined the faculty of Atlanta Baptist (now Morehouse) College in 1898. A master teacher, he deeply influenced the intellectual and moral growth of his students. He also had a strong impact on his peers. His writings were published in the Occasional Papers of the American Negro Academy and in other places. In 1906 he became the first black president of the college. As always, he stressed general culture, human dignity, and Christian principles.
Hope fought for racial equality in every way he could. In 1906 he joined W. E. B. Du Bois and others in the Niagara movement. He was the only college president (white or black) to participate in this protest meeting, which culminated in the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1915 Hope was appointed to the NAACP advisory board.
Working to improve the living conditions of black people in Atlanta, Hope got Federal aid for slum clearance on Atlanta's West Side and secured funds for building model apartments for African Americans. During World War I, as special secretary for the YMCA in France, he devoted himself to the welfare of black soldiers there.
In 1929 Hope became president of Atlanta University, the first black institution in the South to offer graduate degrees. Under his leadership the university attained the highest regional accreditation rating a black institution could receive. Hope worked to affiliate Atlanta's six black colleges; three affiliated in 1929, and the others joined later.
Among his many honors, Hope was elected Phi Beta Kappa at Brown in 1919. He received the Harmon Award for distinguished service in education in 1929 and was awarded the doctor of laws degree by Bates College and Brown, Bucknell, Howard, and McMasters universities. He served as president of the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools, the Georgia Commission for Work among Negro Boys, the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Among his other positions, he was a member of the Executive Committee of the New York Urban League and a delegate to the International Missionary Council.
Hope died on Feb. 20, 1936. He was awarded the Spingarn Medal posthumously for his outstanding services to African Americans.
Further Reading on John Hope
The only full and complete biography of Hope is Ridgely Torrence, The Story of John Hope (1948), which is a thoroughly researched work. Clarence A. Bacote, The Story of Atlanta University: A Century of Service, 1865-1965 (1969), contains a chapter dealing with Hope's administration. There is a sketch of Hope in Wilhelmena S. Robinson, Historical Negro Biographies (1967; 2d ed. 1968).