Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Black Pioneers in High Education: Benjamin Griffith Brawley (1882-1939)

August 6th, 2012 by Ajuan Mance

Benjamin Griffith Brawley (1882-1939)

Benjamin Griffith Brawley was born in Columbia, South Carolina to parents Margaret Dickerson Brawley and Edward McKnight Brawley, the president of a small Alabama college. As a young man Brawley’s father had been the first African American student to graduate from Pennsylvania’s Bucknell University. Academically precocious, the young Benjamin was tutored at home by his mother for several years before enrolling in and attending schools in several states. A gifted student of classical languages, he divided his summer days between odd jobs in the agricultural sector and studying Latin and Greek on his own. At the age of 13, he enrolled in the preparatory program at Altlanta Baptist College (now Morehouse University). Brawley would go on to earn baccalaureate degrees from Morehouse (1901) and the University of Chicago (1906), as well as a master’s degree from Harvard University (1908). He held teaching posts at Howard University, Shaw University, and Morehouse, where he was appointed the institution’s first dean. A prolific writer of both poetry and scholarship, Brawley published a number of poems in the period’s Black magazines and newspapers. His books include three collections of poetry and numerous volumes on African American literature and history, most notably, A Short History of the American Negro (1913), The Negro in Literature and Art in the United States (1918), A Short History of the English Drama (1921), and Paul Laurence Dunbar: Poet of His People (1936).

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