The Quotable Black Scholar: Mrs. M.E.C. Smith
Mrs. M.E.C. Smith (? – 1920)
This question is as grave as it is suggestive. There being a marked difference between character and reputation, its discussion naturally leads to a consideration of the Negro as he really is, and not as he is represented. The delineation of the Negro’s true character is one of the most effectual means of refuting the columnious epithets so constantly hurled at him—a veritable blasphemy against his higher and better nature.
–from “Is the Negro As Morally Depraved As He Is Reputed to Be?” in Twentieth Century Negro Literatue Or, A Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to the American Negro (1902)
Biographical Notes: Little is known about the life of Mrs. M.E.C. Smith, Principal of the Normal Department of Edward Waters College. The most detailed account of her life is found in Twentieth Century Negro Literature, a compendium of African American literature and political thought, edited by Dr. D.W. Culp:
Mrs. Mary E. C. Smith, daughter of Peter H. Day, was a native of New York city. Her education was provided for by her energetic widowed mother, to whom she ascribes the secret of her success. From early childhood she showed strong power of mind, and inherited from her mother that force and determination of purpose which prefigure success in whatever is undertaken. As a pupil, she was prompt and energetic, and never failed to win one of the Ridgeway prizes for good scholarship, which were given annually to successful contestants. She was an excellent Bible student, and when ten years old was elected a teacher in the Sunday-school. At this age she was impressed with the idea that it was her duty to go to the South to instruct her people, who were just emerging from bondage.
By a strange coincidence she was led to Florida, when she had finished her school course, the very place she had named when in an outburst of childish enthusiasm, while preparing a geography lesson, she had said: “O, mother, how I long to go there and teach my people!” The “land of flowers” has been the principal field of her labors as a teacher. Her ability as a teacher was soon discovered, and in 1890 she became principal of the Normal Department of the Edward Waters College, under the presidency of Prof. B. W. Arnett, Jr. Hundreds of students are better citizens because of her faithful teaching and Christian influence. As a church and Sunday-school worker she has few equals. The earnestness of purpose with which she performs the slightest duty is an example worthy of imitation.
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