Who was Alexander Crummell? He was a pioneering Black American, minister, Black nationalist, social analyst, educator, published writer, abolitionist and advocate of Black Americans.
Crummell was born on March 3, 1819, in lower Manhattan, New York City to free black parents Charity Hicks and Boston Crummell. It was said that Crummell father Boston was taken at the age 13, from Timannee, West Africa, and forced into bondage in the North, but eventually refusing servitude by announcing to his White master that he would not serve him no longer and left for freedom. Both his parents were active abolitionist.
The Crummell’s home was the go to place for prominent Black Americans of the time such as, John Brown Russwurm (1799–1851), Samuel Cornish (1795 – 6 November 1858) and many other prominent blacks. The Crummell’s home was the founding place of the first Black American newspaper, Freedom Journal, and was where the first issue was publish. Crummell parents instilled educations and a sense of unity with Africans living in Africa in their son. Crummell began his education at the African Free School No. 2, where he study classical education, English grammar, writing, mathematics, geography and astronomy. The Crummell’s also hired private tutors to educated their son when he was not in school.
After graduating from the African Free School, Crummell attend the Canal High School where he graduated with honors. Despite being born outside for slavery, Crummell still experienced racism first hand. One of Crummell experience was when her enrolled at the Noyes Academy Boarding School in Canaan, New Hampshire. However White students opposed to have to go to school with Black students and the White mob attacked the Black Students and destroyed most of the school. Crummell resumed his studies at the Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, New York. While studying at the Oneida Institute, Crummell decided to become an Episcopal priest. He also married Sarah Mabritt Elston.
Other time Crummell experience racism at the end of the 1830s, when he was denied admittance to the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in New York City because of his race. Crummell was force to study privately and in 1842 he was ordained in Boston,Massachusetts. Rev. Crummell ministered in small congregations in Philadelphia and New York, but struggled horribly to make ends meet. In 1847 Crummell left the United States for England to raise money for his congregation at the church of Messiah, taking on speaking engagements in England. Crummell preached and spoke about abolitionism in the United States, and raised almost $3,000. He also went on to study at the University of Cambridge in England. Crummell failed his finals at his first attempt, but after his second attempt he attained his Bachelor’s Degree in 1853, he became the first officially Black student on record in the University records as graduated.
After receiving his degree in 1853, Crummell relocated to Liberia for missionary work with the Protestant Episcopal Church and he took a job as professor at the Liberia College in Monrovia. While in Liberia Crummell began to advocate for the relocation of Black Americans to Liberia and joining him in converting the Native Africans of Liberia to Christianity, but this attempt fail. Black Americans was busy fighting for equal rights in United States and no one wanted to help with the converting of Liberia. After living in Liberia for approximately two decades, Crummell was force to leave after the assassination of the then, fifth President of Liberia Edward James Roye (February 3, 1815 – February 11, 1872), and threats against his own life from the mulattos in Liberia. In 1873, he returned to Washington, D.C., there he was called as pastor for St. Mary’s Episcopal Mission in the Foggy Bottom area of Washington D.C., then an predominately Black American neighborhood. In 1875, Crummell founded the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, the first independent Black Episcopal church in the city.
The congregation raised funds to construct a new church in the Columbia Heights area, in which the construction began in 1876. Two years later tragedy struck when Crummell wife Sarah died in 1878. One year later the church was finish and they celebrated Thanksgiving in it. Two years later Crummell remarried in 1981 to Jennie Simpson. He served as Pastor of the St. Luke’s Church until his retirement in 1894. Crummell went on and began an professor at Howard University from 1895 to 1897. Despite frustrations, Crummell never stopped working for the racial solidarity he had advocated for so long.
In 1897, the last year of Crummell life, he founded the American Negro Academy, an organization to support Black American scholars, in which the academy opened the doors in 1897. Crummell became the first president of the academy, with William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963), and William Sanders Scarborough (February 16, 1852 – September 9, 1926) as vice presidents. Crummell was an important voice within the abolition movement and a leader of the Pan-African ideology. Crummell’s legacy can be seen not in his personal achievements, but in the influence he exerted on other black nationalists and Pan-Africanists, such as Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. (17 August 1887 – 10 June 1940), Paul Laurence Dunbar (June 27, 1872 – February 9, 1906), and D.E.B. DuBois.
Alexander Crummell passed away in in Red Bank, New Jersey, in 1898, he was 79 years old.