William Sanders Scarborough- African American scholar/Intellectual

Discussion in 'Honoring Black Ancestors' started by AHMOSE, Jul 21, 2005.


    AHMOSE Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Scarborough was born with the status of a slave in Macon, Georgia, on February 16, 1852, to Frances Gwynn Scarborough, a woman owned by Colonel William K. DeGraffenreid. For reasons unknown, DeGraffenreid allowed her to marry and live with her husband, Jeremiah, in their own home. As a boy, the precocious Scarborough was encouraged to study—albeit surreptitiously because the education of blacks was illegal and punishable by law in many parts of the South. The young Scarborough said that he “daily went out ostensibly to play with my book concealed.” In this manner he reported that he “continued to evade the law and study.”

    After the Civil War things changed abruptly. The young Scarborough enrolled in the Macon schools, where he excelled. He was no longer a secret scholar. Several years later after studying at Atlanta University, Scarborough earned both his B.A. and M.A. degrees in classics from Oberlin College and began to teach at Wilberforce University soon after. Over the course of the next several years, he rose to national distinction by publishing First Lessons in Greek, a text that according to his obituary in the New York Times made him “the first member of his race to prepare a Greek textbook suitable for university use.”With this book came fame as he simultaneously demonstrated his own intellectual capacity and that of his entire race. The mindless prejudices of men,who maintained ingrained ideas of “negro inferiority,” were directly challenged. In particular, John C.Calhoun,who was reported to have said to Samuel E.Sewall and David Lee Child,two Boston attorneys,that “if he could find a Negro who knew the Greek syntax, he would then believe that the Negro was a human being and should be treated as a man,” was undone—at least for the moment.

    For more than forty years, Scarborough was an engaged intellectual, public citizen,and a concerned educator. In terms of his classical studies he accomplished as much as some of the better-known figures from this era, and in fact more than many. Scarborough was, in the widest sense of the word, a pioneer. He not only broke through barriers of race and class but stayed the course. His life ran contrary to many currents of his age. As a man of African descent who excelled at Greek and Latin, his attainments challenged all those who maintained ideas about the intellectual deficiencies of his people to reconsider their positions. At the same time, he confounded those who thought that his erudition was merely a thin coat of white-washing.

    Scarborough’s unfailing efforts to gain membership in numerous learned societies helped blacks gain access to professional organizations. In this way he confronted Jim Crow head-on with his intellect and thereby cleared the pathways for many African American intellectuals. On the political and social front,his dedication to the Republican Party acquainted him with politicians all over Ohio, in many states across the country, and with every seated president. He spoke out on many different issues including the reprehensible treatment of the Hawaiian and Philippine peoples, the inhumanity of the convict lease system in the South, and the mistreatment of black soldiers after World War I.

    Scarborough’s account of his life is a study of principled behavior sustained by the virtues of humanity, dignity, and fortitude. There is hardly an event of his era that is not refracted in some way through his “lens.” Scarborough’s autobiography provides a remarkable look into the development of an exemplary black citizen-scholar, who dedicated himself to intellectualism and racial uplift. In the current debates about diversity in the university and its curriculum, his insight is invaluable foresight.

    Read more http://www.africanaheritage.com/Wiliam_S_Scarborough.asp