Tallahassee, Florida: 1941. 11” x 8½”. 22 leaves printed rectos only, upper left corner stapled. Pp. 21. Very good: title leaf detached and with moderate edge chips; first two leaves with a strip of toning along the right edge.
This is the original typescript of a commencement speech delivered at a Florida HBCU that was presented by the longrunning president of a Texas HBCU, M.W. Dogan.
Mathew Winfred Dogan was born in Mississippi in 1863. He served on the faculty of Rust University and Central Tennessee College before becoming president of Wiley College in Marshall, Texas in 1896. Wiley College, the oldest HBCU west of the Mississippi River, was founded by the Freedmen's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1873. Dogan was Wiley's seventh president, but only its second Black one, and held his position for 46 years, the longest tenure of any Wiley president. Under his watch, the school's faculty and administration soon turned predominately African American, the campus and programs were expanded and it became one of the top Black universities in the nation. Dogan also served as president of the Standard Mutual Fire Insurance Company, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, and was active in the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Knights of Pythias.
Per a contemporary newspaper account, Dogan delivered this speech to 87 graduate candidates at Florida A&M College on the date shown on the title leaf, May 26, 1941 and the Tallahassee Democrat called him “a scholar of distinction, a leader in the councils of the Methodist Episcopal church and a noted figure in educational circles.” Dogan's overriding theme was “it is expected that you, as you go out from this institution, will put your stamp of approval upon every venture made to improve the living conditions of our people.” He addressed a number of topics while emphasizing the areas we discuss below.
Dogan began by pointing out the service and contributions towards African Americans by Rosenwald, Carnegie and Rockefeller as well as the Black press, NAACP and Black benevolent/insurance organizations. He specifically touted the NAACP's work in the Scottsboro case as well as the fact that “it brought about 17 reversals on our behalf by the United States Supreme Court.” In acknowledging the work of college fraternities and sororities, he shared that “they make for scholarship and good conduct in the colleges which admit them. Of course, it belongs to college youth, like other youth, to fail, even in best planned organizations, but he gets up again and again if he is going to make it out yonder.” Dogan also urged the graduates to give back to HBCUs to help grow their respective endowments. He further shared his opinions on Black businesses and labor, adequate housing, healthcare, and farming.
In addition to discussing progress made and steps still needed in numerous areas by African Americans, Dogan's third major theme of his speech was consolidation of African American resources in education and religion. He thought, accurately, that multiple HBCUs in one area caused each to be spread too thin:
“A mistake made which is hard to rectify was the placing of two, and sometimes three colleges in the same city, dividing support and making for rivalry most unfriendly. In Austin, Texas, are two competing institutions, Tillotson, supported by congregational and Samuel Huston, by Methodist Church. In Tyler, Texas, Texas College, by C.M.E. Church and Butler College, by Baptist Church.”
Sure enough, 11 years after this speech, Tillotson and Samuel Huston merged; the school exists today as HustonTillotson University.
Dogan's belief in the need for consolidation of resources carried through to religion:
“I believe also in the church . . . I believe in reasonable division of Christian people into denominations. Such division makes for rivalry which encourages proper growth. However, the large number of religious denominations supported by [African Americans] does not advance our interests spiritually nor financially . . . we are now supporting 52 different religious denominations . . . Why cannot the A.M.E.'s, A.M.E. Zions, C.M.E.s and other Methodists iron out their differences largely non-essential and unite into one great denomination with overlapping, proselyting and objectionable features done away with . . . Why should not the factions in the Ne*ro Baptists be done away with? Why two conventions meeting annually in different parts of the country, each carrying immense crowds and each using much time in the meetings in developing methods to outdo the other? Why cannot our wonderfully prepared Baptist leaders 'bury the hatchet?'”
He followed this with a bevy of demographic data to prove his point that
“we find ourselves greatly over-churched. Fully one-half the number we are now supporting could be closed and we would then have a sufficient number left to adquately care for our spiritual needs . . . it is said that one can stand on a certain point in Houston, Texas and count 18 Ne*ro churches.”
A unique item with the text of a delivered speech by an important HBCU president, waxing on what he believed to be the critical issues facing new African American college graduates. Very good. Item #7236