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Benjamin Mays
Benjamin Mays Portrait 1921.png
6th President of Morehouse College
In office
August 1, 1940 (1940-08-01) – July 1, 1967 (1967-07-01)
Preceded byCharles D. Hubert
As Acting President
Succeeded byHugh Morris Gloster
1st Dean of the School of Religion at
Howard University
In office
January 1, 1934 – January 3, 1940
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byJohn Moore
Personal details
Benjamin Elijah Mays

(1894-08-01)August 1, 1894
Ninety Six, South Carolina, U.S.
DiedMarch 28, 1984(1984-03-28) (aged 89)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Resting placeDr. Benjamin E. Mays Memorial
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Ellen Harvin (m. 1920–1923)

Sadie Gray (m. 1926–1969)
ParentsLouvenia Carter Mays
Hezekiah Mays
Alma materBates College
University of Chicago
Known forCivil rights activism
Nickname(s)"Bennie"; "Buck Bennie"

Benjamin Elijah Mays (August 1, 1894 – March 28, 1984) was an American Baptist minister and civil rights leader who is credited with laying the intellectual foundations of the Civil Rights Movement. Mays taught and mentored many influential activists: Martin Luther King Jr, Julian Bond, Maynard Jackson, and Donn Clendenon, among others. His rhetoric and intellectual work focused on notions of nonviolence and civil resistance–beliefs inspired by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. The peak of his public influence occurred during his almost thirty years as the 6th President of Morehouse College, a historically black institution of higher learning.

Mays was born in the Jim Crow South on a repurposed cotton plantation to freed sharecroppers. He traveled North to attend Bates College and the University of Chicago from where he began his career in activism as a pastor in the Shiloh Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. After a brief career as a professor, he was appointed as the Dean of the School of Religion at Howard University in 1934 which elevated him to national prominence as a proponent of the New Negro movement. Six years later, Mays was elected as the president of Morehouse College, an at-the-time financially unstable enterprise. Over his tenure from 1940 to 1967, the college's financial endowment was doubled and enrollment quadrupled; it was established as a leading liberal arts college in the United States.

Due to the relative smallness of the college, Mays mentored and taught many students, most notably King. His connection with King spanned his early days at the college in 1944. King was known as Mays' "spiritual son" and Mays his "intellectual father." After King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, Mays gave the benediction. Upon the 1968 death of King, he was asked to give the eulogy where he described him in his "No Man is Ahead of His Time" speech. Mays stepped down from the presidency in 1967 continuing to work as a leader in the African American community. He presided over the Atlanta Board of Education from 1969 to 1978, where he initiated the desegregation of Atlanta.

Mays' contributions to the civil rights movement have had him hailed as the "movement's intellectual conscience" or alternatively the "Dean [or Schoolmaster] of the Movement".[1][2] Historian Lawrence Carter described Mays as "one of the most significant figures in American history".[3][4] Hundreds of streets, buildings, statues, awards, scholarships, grants, and fellowships are named in his honor. Numerous efforts have been brought forward to posthumously award Mays the Presidential Medal of Freedom as well as feature him on a U.S. postage stamp.

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  • ✪ 29th Annual Benjamin E Mays Lecture - Feb. 21, 2018
  • ✪ 2015 Benjamin E. Mays High School Graduation
  • ✪ I Love Film Festival Trailer-Benjamin E. Mays High School
  • ✪ Ima Do The Nae Nae by Benjamin E. Mays High School
  • ✪ The Modernist Historicist of the Black Church


So good evening! My name is Brian Williams and in addition to being a faculty member in the College of Education & Human Development, a service director of the Alonzo A. Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence here at Georgia State University and tonight it is my honor and privilege to welcome you to the 29th Annual Benjamin E. Mays Lecture. I've been giving the welcome at Mays Lecture for about seven years now and I take this job very seriously. I, like many of you, understand the importance - the vital importance - of a warm welcome and like me many of you were charged with the responsibility of welcoming guests at your family's birthday parties, New Year's celebrations, family cookouts... There was a procedure for doing this when somebody arrived at the door and it went something like this: the door would the doorbell would ring you rushed to the door because you want to open the door properly because it's rude to keep guests waiting. If you don't know the people you greet them with a warm smile and a handshake, you introduce yourself, you ask you their names. If you know them, you greet them with a warm smile, offer your hand for a handshake and then prepare yourself for the volley of hugs and kisses and chin, chin pinches that are to follow. Regardless after you say, after you greet them you say, "Welcome to our home" or you say, "Come in" and then and this is the very important part you say, "the food is in the kitchen" right, or you say, "the food is in the dining room" or "the food is on the back porch". Whatever the occasion the welcome always included directions for where the food was because if you were the host you were almost always expected to feed your visitors and if you were the visitor you always expected to be fed! Right, so with that in mind I say with a smile, welcome to Georgia State University! Welcome to the College of Education and Human Development! Welcome to the 29th Annual Benjamin E. Maze Lecture! Many of you I know personally, others I know who you belong to, right, you are teachers and scholars, parents and activist students and leaders. Your life changers and path makers, visionaries and trailblazers. You are Dr. King's beloved community, you are Dr. Crim's community of believers and some of you are Dr. Hilliard's warriors! Regardless, I hope that you know that we invited Dr. Leslie Fenwick here tonight and created this amazing space for you. For one purpose alone, so that you will be fed. So welcome to the Maze Lecture. Before I take my seat I want to thank a few people who made tonight possible. I'm going to start with one of our very honored guests. In some ways the woman that made all of this possible. I want to start by thanking Dr. Joyce King. Waive Joyce let them know who you are, let them see you. So Joyce is the Benjamin E Maze endowed chair for urban teaching, learning and leadership. It was 28 years ago when our first Benjamin Mays chair, Dr. Alonzo Crim launched this this wonderful lecture and Joyce has been about the business of maintaining that legacy as our Mays chair. So thank you for everything you do Joyce! All right, I want to thank the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development, Dr. Paul Alberto where is Paul there he is back there. Paul can you wave... thank you. So Paul we want to thank you for continuing to be a supporter and advocate for urban education and for this lecture in particular. This is a valuable part of our community and you make it happen every year, so thank you very much. I want to thank our associate dean for school community and international partnerships Dr. Gwen Benson. Gwen will you wave so people can see you... so Gwen we want to thank you for being one of the major powers behind our work, that we do every single day, in support of our children, in our schools and our communities. It wouldn't happen without you, so thank you so much. I want to thank Angela Turk, Claire Miller and Nicola Allen. They're buzzing around here somewhere, there they are, back over in the corner, is our wonderful communications team. So all those wonderful emails and those social media post and anything you see that gives you information about the Mays lectures, is because of Angela and her team we want to say thank you to them. They will be live tweeting tonight, #MaysLecture2018, so make sure you follow. I want to thank these folks, the Crim Center staff! The wonderful team that works in the Crim Center every single day. Special thanks to Dana Salter, Sheila Philpott, Gala Tillman and Daniel Copeland for contributing to this night. We can applaud them because they are amazing people. Also Amy Stamen and the Student Center staff for allowing us to have this wonderful space. Matt Monson videography tonight, Matt Monson Encino videography tonight. So we are videotaping tonight and it will be made available at a later date, so you can kind of share it with your friends who can't be here tonight. Finally, I want to thank Dr. Leslie Fenwick, thank you for taking the time to travel back to the city of Atlanta, to share your ideas regarding excellence in urban education. Dr. Fenwick we're living in very challenging times, these are tough times. The time between last year's lecture and today. It's been rough, yes it's been rough. I mean, now we have had some bright spots... right I mean after all, have y'all seen black panther? You know Dr. Fenwick, I have no doubt that you will offer us another bright spot tonight, and so we want to thank you for offering us a better vision for our children here in Atlanta and abroad. So thank you once again for being here. And of course I want to thank you for taking the time to come out and learn and be a part of this amazing space that is the Benjamin Mays Lecture. We have a wonderful evening in store for you tonight, so welcome to the Mays lecture. At this time I want to invite Dr. Paul Alberto our Dean to the lectern and he will bring greetings from the college. Indeed it is my pleasure for the sixth time now, not quite seven. On behalf of Georgia State University's College of Education and Human Development, to welcome you to this 29th Annual Benjamin E. Mays Lecture. This lecture series is an example of the commitment our college and our Alonzo Crim Center for urban educational excellence has made to improve the education, for all students, across metro Atlanta. Indeed this commitment is embedded in the mission of our College. We prepare educators and human service professionals, to make significant contributions toward the interruption of inter-generational poverty. Through our work with k-12 education and community agencies, in urban settings. We apply scholarship, to resolving the daily challenges children and families face due to the effects of poverty on families, schools and communities. It is in this way that our research and outreach activities, assist in moving lives forward. That is the heart and soul of what we do. We say it as often as we can and we make sure that every student that goes through our college ends up with that as part of their DNA. The discussions engendered by these Mays Lectures often carry over into the Crim Centers community programs and demonstrate how important it is to turn words into actions. We hope you leave today's lecture more engaged in our conversation about urban education and most importantly the communities in which we serve. It is my pleasure now to reintroduce one of the important ladies of our College the Associate Dean for many things, including community and school partnerships, Dr. Gwen Benson. Good evening, I bring you greetings and just a few words about this evenings occasion. Over the years the Benjamin E. Mays Lecture has brought nationally prominent educators and activists to our campus. To provide an important conversation on the issues facing urban school leaders and community stakeholders: locally, nationally and globally. In addition to honoring the memory of Dr. Benjamin E. Maze, this important dialogue that we've had for the past 29 years. I have 17 of those years that I've been in attendance. It promotes Dr. Mays philosophy of excellence in the education of those typically, least well served by the larger society. As I was thinking about tonight's event, I became a little nostalgic, as I remember some of the past speakers I've had an opportunity to interact with, while here. Just to name a few, I won't name all 29... Dr. Asa Hilliard, Dr. Joyce King, Attorney Bryan Stevenson, Miss Ella Gandhi, Dr. Adelaide Sanford, Attorney Marian Wright Edelman, Dr. Jeanne Oakes and many other prominent scholars, over the last twenty nine years of the lecture. So tonight we will continue that great tradition with Dr. Leslie Fenwick. Tonight, see that under the leadership of Dr. Brian Williams and our Benjamin E. Maze chair. Endowed chair holder, Dr. Joyce King is central to the mission of the College of Education and Human Development. The annual Mays lecture and other major initiatives implemented through the Crim Center. Demonstrates that through sustained partnerships and ongoing community outreach, we can contribute to educational excellence in urban schools and the communities we serve. I am confident that tonight's lecture will spark much discussion followed, by a call to activism. So thank you for joining us tonight, for the Annual Benjamin E. Maze Lecture and I know we will all be inspired by our guest speaker. So now I'd like to invite Dr. Joyce King, to the podium, for the formal introduction of our speaker. Thank you very much Dr. Benson and Dean Alberto and Dr. Williams. This is always a special event in my life because I invite my students and lots of people in the community come out and I have the special honor tonight of introducing to you, Dr. Leslie T. Fenwick. You have her bio in the program but I'd like to just cover that formally because she is such an outstanding educator. Dr. Leslie Fenwick is Dean Emeritus and professor of educational policy and leadership at the Howard University School of Education. A nationally known education policy and leadership scholar and former, urban kindergarten to 12th grade teacher, and as she likes to say, "effective teacher." An administrator, Dr. Fenwick is co-founder of the Howard University American Association of School Administrators Urban Superintendents Academy and a past member of the Harvard University Principal Center Leadership and is a member of the scholarly advisory committee for the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture. So don't all rush to see if you can get special tickets. Her op-ed articles about education, the economy, urban development, have appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Education Week, Huffington Post and Diverse Issues in Higher Education. We can say she's an important thought leader, in education and I would say quite a courageous analyst of what is happening in urban education. Dr. Fenwick is regularly called upon to testify about educational equity, college access and teacher quality in the US Senate and she's been an invited speaker at the National Press Club. Where she discussed federal regulations affecting the nation's educator workforce. She also serves on the National Advisory Council for EDtopia and she is a past member of the American Association of Colleges of teacher for teacher Education Board of Directors. A science enthusiast Dr. Fenwick was appointed by NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden, to NASA's education and public outreach community and I'd like to add my voice, to those, who have said that you're in for a special treat tonight. Dr. Fenwick. Well I certainly feel like I'm home, I spent 13 years here in Atlanta, at Clark Atlanta University and had the occasion, "woohoo" [clapping] and had the occasion, on several times, Dean Alberto to come to Georgia State to deliver lectures or to speak to faculty colleagues. I'm deeply grateful to you Dr. King and also Dr. Williams for inviting me here to deliver the Benjamin E. Mays lecture. As I said Atlanta is my second home or maybe I should say as Dr. Williams alluded, "Wakanda". I must say that I was delighted when I was going through the airport to see the T3 gate, stamped with, "Wakanda" with a flight leaving at 7:30 p.m. Thanks to your new mayor. Again I want to acknowledge my colleagues from, Clark Atlanta University, where I spent 13 wonderful years as a faculty member and administrator. I must especially call out Dr. Jim Young who was a visiting scholar at Clark Atlanta, when I arrived, as a new faculty member and he was on leave from Georgia State and it actually was through Dr. young that I met Dr. Asa Hilliard, who became a dear mentor and friend. So as a delight to see you here as well, Patsy, Mrs. Hilliard, thank you for being here. Each year when I was at CAU, I and my students attended this lecture and I especially recall in 1997, when my friend and mentor, Dr. Asa Hilliard delivered the lecture. Patsy you'd find it interesting that since that time, now it's 2018 and that was 1997, I've kept a copy of his remarks, near my computer, in my home office, for a frequent referencing and for inspiration. I believe I'm the fifth scholar to deliver the Mays lecture who was affiliated with an HBCU and I'm also personally pleased that the lecture is named for Benjamin E. Maze. Who prior to becoming president of Morehouse College, as you well know, was Dean of the School of divinity at Howard University. So in some ways I feel there's an affiliation, here me as a former Dean and him as a former Dean as well. Who inspired our being together here today. I frequently say that if HBCUs, historically black colleges and universities disappeared tomorrow and, there are forces that would like us to, but we won't! So too would black academics, more than 60% of black people who earn doctorates, hold faculty positions at historically black colleges and universities. Lit nearly 96 percent, of black tenured faculty members, are at HBCUs and these data are especially striking when you consider that HBCUs comprise only 3 percent of the nation's 4,000 colleges and universities. But this evening Dean Alberto I don't come as a Dean Emeritus. I don't even come as a tenured professor. I come to you as a teacher who has successfully taught black students. Many of whom were characterized as poor, from kindergarten through the doctoral level. So in this regard my remarks which are titled, "looking behind the veil of school reform" are informed by my experiences and observations about, what it takes, to create teaching and learning environments, that nurture all students. I've been very mindful of the time because I appreciate you all spending your evening here, so I think my remarks are exactly 32 minutes Dr. Williams. I've divided my comments into two related sections. The first explores how researchers represent blacks in research and the second takes us, behind the veil of school reform, to see what's really happening to schools that serve black, brown and poor children. Well the hallmark of science is replication. Replication of what works, yet too much, I believe of the media and research commentary about black people and the black community, is a litany of negativity. A recitation about what's not working. The image of black people, I believe in contemporary research, is dismal and harmful at best. More often than not, outright defamatory and libelous. I recall an occasion nearly 18 years ago and maybe some of you who are researchers and professors have had a similar experience. I was invited to a foundation sponsored think-tank. I won't name the foundation but you would know it. To examine, as the invitation letter stated and I quote, "urban education and minority student outcomes". There were 20 experts in the field, invited to attend. I was the one invitee, who was African-American. There was one, Hispanic Latina, at this convening, on urban education, held in the hills of Colorado. Toward the end of the first day the discussion turned to increasing African-American students college readiness and admission rates. As that day came to a close, one of the think-tank participants, stated that African-American males, college admission rates, were low because they performed poorly specifically less well than African-American females, on college entrance exams. No one questioned this assertion and a very lively conversation, ensued about policy and funding recommendations for improving African-American males college readiness and admission rates. I recall being stunned that none of the invited scholars questioned the assumption, about African-American males or provided a reference citation or data to substantiate this claim. So that evening I stayed up until about two or three o'clock in the morning searching the college, yes I'm fanatical, searching the college boards and ETS's websites. Along with volumes of the National Center for EDs Statistics Condition of Education Report. At that time just like now copious data were available online with test data dis-aggregated by race, ethnicity, gender and geographic region, among other variables. The results of my post-midnight research indicated that African-American males outscore African-American females, on every standardized college and professional school entrance exams. So whether you're talking about the GRE, the GMAT, the DCAT, the LSAT, the MCAT. Whatever the college or graduate school professional exam, African-American males outscore African-American females. So the next morning, that didn't surprise me, actually the assertion from the night before had surprised me. So the next morning, I was very eager to present this information to the group of experts. And did so in my mind, so that we could restructure policy and funding recommendations around accurate data. And I remember this group of experts being in disbelief, about my recitation and then questioning the source and validity of the data I presented. So I reminded the group that we had not questioned, nor seemed alarmed, by the negative, erroneous statistics cited the night before about African-American males. Nor had we asked any participant until this very moment with me, to verify their claims with a reference in a citation. As habit would have it, I had stuffed the website printouts in my book-bag, which accompanied me to the session. So I shared the charts, after I reminded everybody that this was not our operating process. This experience reinforced my own observation that this consistent and constant recitation of negative statistics, about black people, is deleterious to scholarly inquiry. It misdirects policy formulation and funding priorities and is outright libelous to black people. In fact much of what masquerades as research about black people is really defamation in my experience. Webster defines defamation as: "the communication of a statement that makes a claim expressly stated or implied to be factual that may be given an individual business product group government religion or nation to an ordination and implies negativity and an inferior image". So I believe that there's two little mining of existing data and too few research reports that present the truth about black people in the black condition. Even though we are an enlightened group assembled here this evening, I want you to take a minute to consider some answers to the following nine questions. I am a former middle school teacher, so this is a pop quiz. You don't have to write down the answers. The first five questions are relatable to education and schooling and the last four deal with larger societal issues. The reason I'm asking these questions, that I want you to hear the questions and then think about the answers and think if there's something counter-narrative in these answers. So the first question is, what percentage of African-American parents report setting aside a special time and place for their child to complete homework and have an adult in the house check it? We have some African-American parents in the room. I won't ask them to stand up and give an answer but the answer is 94% of African- American parents report engaging in the school affirming behavior. This is the highest percentage for any subgroup of parents responding to the parent and family involvement in education survey. Conducted not by Fenwick but by the National Center for Ed Statistics at the US Department of Education. What does that data tell you about parental involvement? The narrative about the disconnect between African American families and their child's participation in school. It pushes against that notion, it unconfirmed that research. What percentage of black parents and white parents report attending PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences? Again I'm asking this because many of us in this room you're either working on your doctorate, you're a scholar yourself, you've read literature over the decades about school and community relations. Parent-teacher relations building school climates and environments. Well here again the parent and family involvement in education survey conducted by the National Center for Ed's Statistics reports that 90% of white parents and 87% of black parents report attending PTA meetings. 78% of white parents and 77% of black parents report attending parent-teacher conferences. Third question, there are nine... What is the gender and racial ethnic profile of the nation's most credentialed and experienced educators. So if we dis-aggregated the nation's educators primarily teachers and principals and superintendents by number of degrees they have and years of experience what would that fallout look like what would that demographic fallout or profile look like? The answer is African-American males! My research shows that African American educators are the nation's most credentialed and experienced group of educators. Specifically African-American males are more likely to hold a doctorate and have more years of experience as a teacher when they ascend to the principalship and more years as a principal when they ascend to the superintendency than their white peers. In comparison white males who represent more than 80 percent of the nation's nearly 14,000 superintendents, are the least credentialed and professionally experienced educators in the nation. Number four, are there more black men in prison or in college? I hear prison... as I hear college, in fact there are more black men in college than in prison. They're approximately 1.4 million black men in college and about eight hundred and forty thousand black men in prison. Too many black men in prison, but for years this we heard this recitation there more black men in prison than in college and it's not factual. The record was corrected by our own Howard University's own, Dr. Ivory Tolson. You know we continue to hear this piece of data, if there's nothing you remember from my speech I hope you remember to tell everyone that's within hearing distance of you that there are more black men in college than in prison. Which group of 12th graders is least likely to use alcohol, tobacco or other drugs? I asked some 12th graders this question, they didn't know the right answer. According to the National Institute for drug abuse, African-American high school seniors, consistently have been found to have lower estimates than white high school seniors for the prevalence of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. This finding also is true among African-American youth and lower grades and African-American college students, attending historically black colleges and universities. The National Institute for drug abuse tells us that. The next question, which population of women between the ages of 18 to 36 years of age is most likely to use illicit or prescription drugs, marijuana or cocaine... white women or black women? According to the Department of Health and Human Service Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Journal of Ethnicity and Substance Abuse, repeated annual reports, for the last 25 years. White women use more drugs than black women. Specifically white women in the age group, that I cited (18 to 36) 41% of white women report using illicit or prescription drugs, compared to 24.9% of black women. Also 38.2% of white women report using marijuana compared to 18.7% of black women. 3% of white women report using cocaine compared to 0.7% of black women. Is that the first time you've heard those data? Yeah. Which population of men between the ages of 18 to 36 is more likely to use illicit or prescription drugs, marijuana or cocaine, white men or black men? Again according to the Department of Health and Human Services Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Journal of Ethnicity and Substance Abuse. 25 years of research shows that white men use more drugs than black men. Specifically 43% of white men report using illicit or prescription drugs compared to 36% of African-American men. 41.5% of white men report using marijuana. Compared to 33.5% of African-American men. 5.1% of white men report using cocaine, compared to 1.8% African-American men. This leads to my last two questions, What percentage of crack cocaine usage is by whites and what percentage of powder cocaine usage is by whites? The answers are 62% of crack cocaine usage is by whites and 72% of powder cocaine usage is by whites. While often characterized as a drug of the black community, 60% of individuals who have ever used crack in the last month are white. White crack cocaine users also account for 66% of individuals who have ever used crack in their lifetime. Simply stated, the majority of crack users in this country are white. Despite this reality, 80% of people arrested for crack cocaine offenses are blacks. At rates 10 times higher than that of whites. Then my final question, Which population of Americans is most likely to attend church? I think we kind of know that. According to the annual Gallup Poll of Americans church attendance, 55% of African-Americans report attending church weekly, the highest percentage for any racial or ethnic subgroup in America. Well this recitation, I could go on with these questions. I have about 50 of them. It's not meant to be a Jeopardy game of sorts, you know Alex, I'll take African-Americans for 600. You know, nor is this about advancing a strengths-based or asset based research approach. Rather I'm urging a deep interrogation and interruption of the defamation of black people in research and I'm urging us as scholars, and policymakers, and funders. To peel back the layers of statistics that we hear each and every day. About black boys and girls, black men and women, black families and black communities. In fact when I'm at Howard University, speaking to my students. I tell them, we are not equipping you at Howard University to get these degrees to act like you weren't a black child. Well you know these black children and their families. We're not equipping you with degrees to speak about black children like you weren't one. Or to talk about black families like you didn't come from one. Or black communities like you weren't nurtured by them. I want us to be suspicious each and every time and I mean each and every time. That we see that PowerPoint that begins with the listing of negative statistics about black people. I want us to be nervous each and every time we report these data. I want us to make other people uncomfortable about capriciously reporting these data and I want us to take the time to tease out as many pieces of empowering data and gather our own strategic data. I want us to approach our research when we sit down to write and when we attend our learned society meetings. Armed with empowering data so that we can fight this defamation. The common practice of beginning scholarly presentations about blacks, with rosters of negative statistics, reinforced in my mind at least three erroneous notions. One these negative statistics become synonymous with negative human qualities, which are then attributed to the so called true nature of black people. The persistence of negative statistics about blacks communicates that we are community beyond intervention. Three, rarely does such study lead to effective solutions. Now I want to be clear, that I'm not advocating rose-colored glasses or bartering away legitimate problems in a variety of communities, including the black community. What I am urging you is what Dubois urged many many many years ago. When he said and I quote, "a study of the slum takes us far far beyond the slum". Well let's peek behind the veil of urban school reform and see what it tells us just as we've peaked behind the veil of data about the black community. We know that Flint Michigan came to national attention in 2014 and we also know that the news about Flint Michigan is not just about Flint Michigan. There are communities all across our nation, being dangerously ignored and discarded and most of these communities are populated by the poor, who are disproportionately black and brown. Demographers tell us that in 28 years, I won't ask you to calculate how old you'll be, but in 28 years the year 2044. The majority of US citizens will be people of color primarily, African-American and Hispanic Latinos. I believe the year is actually 2024 but I'll go with what the demographers say 2044. I'm asking you this question, as you think about this tremendous and first time in the U.S. major demographic shift. What will this shift mean for American democracy and capitalism. To have so many of the nation's future majority now living on the precarious edges of social economic and political order. All the while, witnessing urban redevelopment investment none of it meant for them. In many ways where we live shapes what we think about ourselves. So what do children living in poverty witnessing police violence and murders, learning about lead poisoned water, attending rundown schools with no air, no heat? Seeing immigrants and Islam demonized in the news and popular movies? What do they come to think of themselves, their families, their neighborhoods and the society that permits these atrocities? What do these same children think, when their neighborhood is suddenly transformed with new grocery stores and farmers markets, coffee shops, hip restaurants and high-rise condominiums, with rooftop pools and new schools, that are not meant for them. We've all seen this urban renewal, I know I have in Washington DC. I think you have here in Atlanta. If you haven't let me explain how the program unfolds. It unfolds in lock-step, locate new businesses, typically a large specialty grocery store and coffee shop. Upgrade public services and protective police patrol, protective police patrol. Build high-end condominiums and apartment buildings. Raise public housing, export the urban poor residents, close schools serving the minority poor and open newly restructured schools for the new more affluent residents. If you're not sure this equation is working and I'm sure you know the places in Atlanta to go to see this. You can come to Washington DC and go to the corner of 4th and M Street Southwest. Where blocks of new development, circle Syphax homes, the area's remaining public housing project. From Syphax you can walk past half a million dollar, a million dollar condos, a completely upgraded large grocery store, which contains a new coffee shop, with a fireplace. Boutique burger joints and pet shops. The remarkable transformation of the grocery store alone, from poorly lit and sparsely stocked, when it was primarily used by poor and poor people and people of color. To a sparkling superstore with freshly baked breads and aisles of fruits and vegetables, mostly organic, for the new urban residents is a story in and of itself. So what does all of this have to do with urban school reform? Urban school reform in my opinion is not about schools, it's not about reform, it's not about kids. It's about land development. The authors of an intriguing book, The Color of School Reform, affirmed this in their study of school reform in Baltimore Detroit and Atlanta. They found and I quote, "Many key figures promoting broad efficiency, reform initiatives for urban schools either lived in the suburbs or sent their children to private schools". We know that local control of public schools, through elected school boards, is supposed to empower parents and community residents. But this rarely happens in school districts, serving blacks and poor students. Too often predators, eager to exploit schools for their own benefit, short-circuit the work of deep and lasting school and community uplift. Mayoral control, Teach for America, education management organizations and venture capital funded charter schools, have not garnered much grassroots support or enthusiasm among parents, whose children actually attend urban schools, because these parents rightly view these schemes as uninformed by their community and disconnected from the best interest of their children. In the most recent cases of Washington DC and Chicago Public Schools. Black parents and other community members, point to school closings, as verification for their distrust of school reform efforts. We know that mayoral control, has been linked to a pattern of closing and dis-investing in schools that serve poor black students and reopening them as charters operated by education management organizations and backed by venture capitalists. While mayoral control, proposes to expand educational opportunities for black and poor children, more often than not, new schools are placed in upper income gentrifying white areas of town. While more schools are closed and fewer new schools are opened in, low-income black areas, thus increasing the level of education inequity. Inner city residents are suspicious of school reform, particularly when it's attached to neighborhood revitalization, which they view as an imposition from external moneyed elites. Who are exclusively committed to using schools, to recalculate urban land values, at the expense of inner-city children, parents and communities. Make no mistake about it, the nation is still fighting for, "Brown" but not in the supreme court this time. We're now fighting for, "Brown" on Wall Street. The moral imperative to support deep and lasting change in urban communities and reclaim public education will not be driven by mayoral control. It will not be driven by union-busting, anti-teacher displacing, Teach for America, which populates schools serving black brown and poor children, with sociology and anthropology and geography majors. Masquerading as teachers and while Teach for America participants, I don't say teachers, I was trained as a professional teacher. So while Teach for America participants, have a missionary zeal, to serve the NAACP and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund [MALDEF]. Affirm that the missionary model, has never been a friend of black people, brown people, colored people worldwide. If you don't believe, me or the NAACP or MALDEF, read the, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, decision which affirmed that saddling minority poor children with un-certified teachers and I'm quoting from the decision, "Is discriminatory and does harm to students". Urban school reform will not be, delivered to us by the Broad Foundation Program, with its declare failure, then closed schools and poor black neighborhoods. Turn schools over to the governor and emergency management team, programmed, I mean programmed, superintendents. If there's one near you, expect school closures in black neighborhoods. There's one near me, there been three near me. Is there one near you? It won't be driven by other deep-pocketed venture capital backed philanthropist, who think that they know best and push their ideals alone. You know the names, name them. The nation needs louder interrogation of the hand of modern-day philanthropists in public education. The P in public education stands for public, not philanthropically supported. We need louder interrogation and interruption of their motives and endgame. Think about this, the most prominent billionaires, who are underwriting urban school reform, are a remarkably un-diverse group. They do however find diverse, acolyte pawns, diverse acolyte pawns. Program them, provide them all the money to start charter school networks and infiltrate public school districts. Note back at home, these billionaires companies leadership is not diverse and in most cases their workforce is not diverse or unionized. Yet they fund quick-draw school startups, which can instantly create a public relations campaign, using the faces of black, brown and poor children and tear-jerking mission statements about their uplift. Yet these same billionaires, can't diversify their company's leadership and workforce or create jobs that benefit the communities captured in cycles of poverty and neglect why is this so? Why can't they create jobs with their billions? There's more than 50 years of research indicating that concerted efforts to provide female heads of household, meaningful employment opportunities would prevent, hundreds of thousands of families from falling into intractable poverty. Once families experience intractable poverty, their children are dramatically worse off, in terms of quality school options in the likelihood of high academic achievement. When we hear about venture capital back charter school networks. When those sneak into our system. I believe we must ask ourselves, why do we want to believe that corporate America, which is not a friend to black adults, will rescue black children out of poor performing schools, job deserts and school deserts. Why are these venture capital backed charter school networks, with their highly programmed curricula, through their no excuse of schools, infiltrating the education of black, brown and poor children. This is when you sit black child. This is when you stand brown child. This is when you look the uncertified Teach for America participant, teacher so-called teacher, in the eye poor child. This is how you pass the standardized test. Oh no, not you special-needs child. We don't accommodate the differently able. This is when you become a thought-controlled, submissive worker in the machine. Here's your slot and by the way it's not my company. But when do you black child, brown child, become educated? Have teachers who believe in your intellectual capacity and nascent genius? When do you black child, brown child, poor child have time for curiosity, exploration and play, which Einstein said is the highest form of learning? When do you have time to heal from the violence that shapes contemporary poverty? When do you black child, brown child, poor child have time to flourish in a contemplative and in a nurturing school? In a school that is not programming you not to think. "Quando", when we cannot continue to abandon children in school and job deserts and expect them to fulfill their destinies or our nation to live up to its democratic promise. So this glance behind the veil of urban school reform. Reveals the strategy and this is the strategy. It's an easy strategy, use the truth to tell a lie. So the truth centers on the shock-and-awe strategy, that public schools are failing and it's true that public schools have and are under serving black children and those living in poverty. The lie is that venture-backed charter schools, no excuses schools vouchers, broad prepared superintendents, Teach for America are the answer. But what's the real end game of those with the money and much of the power? Once they bust the teachers unions, capture the near trillion, 650 billion dollars, supporting public schools 650 billion dollars supporting public schools. What's their goal once they reduce public space? I believe it's to control thought. Not in an x-files kind of way. I haven't gone off that way but to control thought, eliminate authentic, conscious, black school leadership. Replace those leaders with individuals who are program controlled and not at all beholden to black, brown and poor communities. Rather they are scripted and controlled by their promoters, whose interests are often contrary to the families whose children are in the public school districts they lead. So how do we build the community of believers? That Dr. Crim spoke about? That Dr. Mays alluded to? I think they both would ask us, where are those people? Are we those people, who really believe in and are willing to invest in black, brown and poor children? I believe we must look to ourselves and we must ask the right questions, to guide our thinking and our collective action and here are four questions that I believe are essential. What firm is conducting your superintendent search or your last superintendent search? Is your superintendent a graduate, of the Borough Preparation Program? If so expect school closings in the black neighborhood near you and proliferation of charters with district money. Parents and community leaders I believe must demand a fair and open search process to produce superintendent candidates who have excellent education credentials, successful and substantial teaching principal and superintendent tenures and instructional expertise. Not biographies that are created when they assume these positions. We should not have novices leading urban school districts. We need proven leadership, this issue hit close to home for me in DC, our last superintendent search was led by a search firm that had never conducted a superintendent search, Ever! You don't have to know a lot about education policy to see the fix was in. Also communities must rise and fight I believe when principals and superintendents who have served our communities well are demonized. We must take a you'll not mess with this one attitude if we are to attract and retain the best principals and superintendents for urban districts. The second question I think we need to consider is, why are we reading about the jailing of black superintendents principals and teachers? Now I am a former k12 teacher. I began teaching fourth grade, taught in middle school, was an assistant principal and a principal and then moved to higher ed. So I don't want anyone to construe this as I'm saying, chief I think the tests are a cheat but I'm not saying cheat okay but why are we reading about the jailing of black superintendents principals and teachers? When did creating a quote, "culture of fear about test scores" become racketeering? A crime punishable by 20 years in prison. Why aren't state legislatures who created high-stakes test states under the same scrutiny as superintendents when standardized test score irregularities are found. After all didn't these governors and legislatures pass the laws that tie student test scores to educators compensation against the advice of education researchers, parents, teachers, unions and superintendents organization. Why was the former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee who was accused of creating the very same, "culture of fear about test scores". Why is she glorified and placed on the cover of Time magazine, while former Atlanta superintendent Beverly Hall was charged with racketeering? Why does Rhee continue to enjoy bipartisan support from the so called conservative and education reformers? Is that really about cheating on the test? And who named the test, "the god of education and assessment"? We know from decades of research that test-driven systems don't incentivize improvement. They hurt minority in high poverty schools, often leaving these schools dramatically worse off and this is so because in high poverty schools students are 70% more likely than their affluent peers to have a teacher teaching them four subjects: Math, English, Social Studies and Science. Who's not certified in any of those subjects and doesn't have a college major or minor in the subject taught. So if we were a school and half of us were on free or reduced lunch. The teacher in front of you in four subject areas, math go across the hall for science, go down the hall for English and social studies you are 70% more likely to have a teacher who's not certified in the area he or she is teaching you and doesn't have a college major or minor. So why have we allowed the academic requirements for children to increase and access through the door of teaching to decrease. Continuing to educationally malnourished children, will not yield much progress not surprisingly until we change the inputs. We will continue to find that students without adequate teachers will come up short. And in fact I think we need to be apprised of one statistic that I find a bit jarring. 84% of black children are in high-stakes test states meaning they're in states where you are required to take a standardized test to progress to the next level or next grade or graduate. Compared to 66% of white children. The last two questions I think we need to ask about or ask rather. In 2015 the nation's public school population became majority students of color for the first time in the history of public schools in this country. With this level of diversity, why are textbooks and other instructional materials almost exclusively white in content and authorship? I want you to couple this observation with this fact. Nearly 60% of blacks who earn doctorates earned the degree in education. Mostly in the sub-specialty of curriculum and instruction. Certainly the textbook companies could use these experts to expand textbook authorship and content to be more diverse and reflective of black and Hispanic Latinas history culture and intellectual achievements. All children benefit when their learning materials broadly reflect the intellectual achievements, culture and history of diverse groups. Today's teachers have a ready partner in teaching African-American history and culture, the new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American history and culture stands ready to greet the nation's teachers and children. I believe that all teachers should visit the museum with their students and take advantage as well of the digital resources available only a click away on a computer. And then finally, why do some schools in the same district have more of everything? Now we've all read, Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities. We're familiar with state funding formula it's not a sexy topic but how we fund schools in the United States and even though we have explicit conversation about educational equity. We still have some schools in the same district with everything and I want you to take a ride around Atlanta Public Schools you could do the same thing in DC or any other school district across the country. I'm asking if you've ever visited Sarah Smith Elementary School on Roswell Road? It's a public school and in Atlanta Public Schools. It's a gorgeous, high achieving school in Northwest Atlanta with an active parent organization and financially robust foundation. Anyone teach at a school with a foundation? That supports school programs and activities. Sarah Smith I believe is a model school with a dedicated faculty and a staff striving to be the best each and every day as they serve their deserving students. Here's my question, Is there any one school in southwest Atlanta like Sarah Smith? Is there one in Bankhead? Is funding for schools equal and equitable across the district? If not, why? Where's the money going? To whom is the money going? Is all the difference in booster clubs and parent-teacher associations? Or is there some other equation in action? There are many many other critical questions that we can ask as community members committed to doing better by black brown and poor children. My hope is that by sharing these facts by peeking behind the veil of urban school reform and sharing with you four essential questions. That we and our leaders will stay on the path to creating better schools and communities for all children. I believe that the economic well-being of the nation's citizens and the vibrancy of our cities and schools must be inspired by our collective will to eradicate the isolation and ills of poverty. Children are watching and learning from us and the black, brown and poor children will soon comprise the majority of American citizens. Thank you for affording me this opportunity to share my thinking. Thank you All right, so we do Q&A kind of a conversation style. First I want to thank Dr. Fenwick once again can we give her another round of applause please? So the way we do our Q&A is, Dr. King and Dr. Fenwick would kind of have a conversation. You have note cards in your programs. If you have a question, please write it on the note card. I'm sorry I have something in my eye. Please write it on the note card and one of our interns or our AmeriCorps members will come by and grab it and we'll bring it up to Joyce, she'll read the question to Dr. Fenwick. Dr. Fenwick. So we'll go ahead we'll get us started and if you have a note card with a question just wave it in the air will come by and pick it up for you. Let's give Dr. Fenwick another... thank you, show our appreciation. While we're waiting for your questions to come up, I would just like to ask Dr. Fenwick have you gotten any hate mail? Hello? Can you hear me? Yes. I've not gotten any hate mail but every time I do an op-ed. I'll have someone call me from Teach for America probably now Brode but usually there's scholars and they want my resources and I always cite my resources so they're usually trying to dis confirm the data that I'm sharing and I tell them that I'm not going to do there with my research for them but they're certainly welcome to cite my published research which has gone through some review but I've not gotten any hate mail. That was a little facetious question but we have lots of graduate students here, people looking to go into the Academy and do research and we try to encourage them as you did in your remarks to speak truth to this situation. What would be your advice for an emerging scholar to contribute to the solution oriented work that you're doing? What inspired me in looking at these data was that I found myself repeatedly in rooms where people were talking about urban education and no one had done that work and it disturbed me that I had taught and been an administrator and worked with students as I said earlier from kindergarten through the doctoral level and I knew what was being proposed whether it was a policy formulation a practitioner intervention or a funding stream was ill-conceived and based on erroneous information and in fact misperceptions of black, brown and poor children that angered me and it forced me to then look for data that was disconfirming of the of the major narrative of the majority narrative. Mainly because I wanted people to know the truth or I wanted people to have some tension about what was being shared with them. As they formulated policy and practitioner interventions and funding streams so my advice to doctoral students is you have a passion about some area of inquiry and it's your passion no one told me to stay up and question whether African-American male college attendees outscored African American female college prospective college attendees on the SAT, GRE, all these tests. I did that and it was energized by my passion and my desire to know and the same is true for you. I really enjoy talking to the doctoral students in a symposia or a symposium earlier today and you each have unique and important passions that will drive your research and I would say don't disconnect who you are from your research, your life story, your story as a practitioner. Informs your research, it energizes your research, it gives validity to your research. Don't set aside who you are to be an academic or a researcher. This is one of the reasons why I said earlier that we tell our students I tell our students at Howard University. Don't get these degrees and then start talking about communities like you're not from them. Don't take on this posture of a researcher of a scholar of an academic and divorce yourself from what you know to be true. If you were a black child and someone's talking about black children and schooling please don't adopt that posture that well you know the black children or you know these Hispanic Latinas, you know you know at Howard we have a chant hu and you know that's the response okay so I'm encouraging you I'm urging you to unpack these statistics get nervous when you hear these statistics which are more often than not shared around communities of color. Shared about communities of color in many ways communities of color have had a social science done unto us. Social science hasn't enabled our community. And I think the new generation of academics, researchers, scholars, you're gonna undo some of this and you're gonna chart new courses in a world that's not replete with kind of some of the binary understandings that we've always had black, white, gay, straight they're not these new scholars are in a world that's not as binary I think or would like to hope. I'm gonna take my glasses off for this one. What plans do you have to publish and promote this information to educational and policy administrators to improve schools? So there are three publications already out Blackson research, "how shall we be portrayed" which is a spin on question that Du Bois raised in the crisis in 1940, that's an urban, the Journal Urban Education. It's in print you can pull it up the Journal of Urban Education published by Sage, Blackson Research, "how shall we be portrayed." There is an op-ed in the Washington Post titled, "Urban School Reform", is about land development not kid, excuse me not kids, published by The Washington Post if you google my name and Washington Post it'll pop up. There's a commentary piece in Education Week titled, "Up Ending Stereotypes About Black Students", in Education Week on the commentary page. And one of the reasons why I've tried to get some of these pieces in scholarly journals is for all the obvious reasons to get to researchers but I've put these opinion pieces and commentary pieces together for the Washington Post and Education Week and other publications Phi Delta Kapa to get the word to practitioners. My latest piece is Vouchers it's actually titled, "Vouchers", really again and I was asked to write to write the piece, after Joshua Starr, Dr. Starr who's the president of PDK heard me speak at the Press Club and so that peace is in PDK if you Phi Delta Kapa. How have you seen ALEC affect urban schools and education legislation? This is the legislative group that rights legislation model legislation for people in Congress, ALEC. How have I seen them affect mm-hmm or have you I don't know that I know Alec I'd have to have another some other context. Okay we'll come back to that. I am a white, upper-middle class, private school educated, young woman. What can I do knowing that I don't want to dictate what is best for a community I am not of? It's a wonderful question and I heard that question about a month ago a large group of parents who were from an what, predominantly white affluent district, attended a symposium about vouchers and charter schools and they were there to say that we want to support this cause of reducing the number of vouchers and charter school proliferation and what can we do and I really appreciated that question well I don't think in the United States that there are any coalition's that are progressive coalition's that don't have a variety of people so when you look at the American tradition in the democratic tradition we've succeeded whether we're talking about civil rights, multicultural education, Afro-centric education. We've succeeded because we've had pluralistic and progressive groups of people come together we've not had groups of people who've come together in isolation. The great American experiment says that when we come together and I do think that this was the model of Dr. Benjamin E. Maze and Dr. Alonso Crim. Those men collaborated and even during the social era that they grew up in and we're professionals during they saw all kinds of social and racial atrocities that we've not experienced many of us in this room and yet they continued a belief in the democratic ideal that energizes America. So I think that more coalition's of diverse people are needed. We need the parent who has a child at Sarah Smith School. We need the parent who doesn't have a child at Sarah Smith School who's in Bankhead. We need everybody to have a sensibility about public education because we still express a belief that an educated citizenry is essential to the democratic experiment. As a lowly teacher who observes district inequity at my school what is the best way to fight for equal technology funding facilities etc? None of us and none of us can do this work alone. We all need coalition's and there's no such thing as a lowly teacher. I began my career as a fourth grade teacher, there's no such thing as a lowly teacher. After parents, these are the individuals who cultivate and nurture our children. But I do think that we all need support whether we're a researcher, you know when when I was still when I do my research. I think about Dr. King I think about Dr. Vanessa Sidle Walker. I used the work of James D Anderson these people's research energizes me. It keeps me focused on my path and I think that teachers need coalition's researchers need coalition's superintendents. We need coalition's of each other and other people and I think when you build those coalition's you have the answers for your coalition. So teachers have an answer for their own coalition of teachers so I would say we're not doing the work in isolation and there are many others who are doing this work and when you start down the path it will unfold before you. I have two questions about the preparation of teachers, How do we enhance teacher preparation programs so that they are inclusive with respect to gender race sexuality socioeconomic status? Is there some gray space when we're talking about TFA and charter schools? There's no gray space. When we're talking about TFA and charter schools. There isn't and I say that based on my experience as an educator. I don't believe there's any gray space. No! The intention of the program is not to assist black, brown and poor children it's not as Lyndon Johnson said to use education to lift children at those who are in poverty out of poverty. So no I don't think there's any gray space and that made me forget the first part of the question what's your advice for teacher educators who prepare teachers to work in urban schools of historically undeserved students. I really see these models, I referenced those 650 billion dollar industry that's public school education I'm not answering the first part of the question I realized this I'm stuck on the second part of the question about the gray space. I see these models as harmful not harmful as a theoretical proposition as someone who's not worked in schools and helped black, brown and poor children achieve academically. I see them as harmful and disruptive to the notion and ideal of public education. I also see it see these models as tied to revenue generation for venture capitalists and those who would run charter networks. So the reason I come down so hard on this is I don't think the models were designed with children in mind and if you start there that's the beginning and the end of the conversation additionally when you think about charters and vouchers. I want you to go back to the history, the history of charters and vouchers did not start in 1983 with a nation at risk. Charters and vouchers started post 1954, post Brown, with white resistant to desegregation in the 16 dual system states. Southern legislatures, superintendents and teachers. White teachers, superintendents and legislators said how can we continue to resist what was what is what was then the law of the land and came up with the schemes of charters and vouchers to do so. So this isn't a stream these heavy-laden tools that are intended to redirect that 650 billion dollars away from the nation's largest socializing organization called public schools. Right at a time when black, brown and poor children become the majority. That's not conspiratorial that's historical fact. So we have to interrogate these tools in light of their history so no there's no gray space on a racist tool called charters and vouchers now rescuing black brown and poor children out of poverty and out of school deserts. No the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, MALDEF and NAACP which are instruments of justice in this country said those models are discriminatory and do harm to children. That's what the judges of the 9th Circuit Court said so there's no gray space there's a lot that we can do I think in teacher education and I think focusing I wish we focused more on diversifying the authorship and content of textbooks and other instructional materials now teacher ed can't do that job but future teachers can. That lowly teacher, that's not lowly she can connect online with the National Museum of African-American history and culture and use their digital archives if she doesn't know about African-American history. I can connect with the National Museum of Native American history and use their digital archives in my classroom. Here are two other sort of related questions do you know what the demographic profile of TFA participants / missionaries is why do you think the profile looks that way and what do you think the solution is to meet the growing deficit of qualified teachers? So if we go inside inner city rings and look at teacher demographics, 73% of inner city teachers are white and 68% of inner city principals are white. Come out of that inner city ring to urban centers 91 percent of teachers are white. Now you already know the demographic profile of students in this country the majority of public school students are African American, Hispanic Latino and the majority of public school students are also living in poverty so there's a huge demographic mismatch between public school personnel and the students that they're serving now we mention this because all students benefit from having diverse models of intellectual authority before them whether they're white, black, hispanic latinas, Asian. All students benefit by having diverse models of intellectual authority and we know for black and Hispanic Latino students that there are social and academic benefits that accrue to those students when they're in schools that are diversely staffed so when black and Hispanic Latino students are in highly diverse lis staff schools there are four outcomes they're less likely to be placed in special ed. More likely to be tested for gifted education. More likely to graduate high school in four years less likely to be expelled or suspended. So we know that there are benefits that accrue to children when they are in diversely staffed schools. The demographic profile of Teach for America teachers I think is somewhat similar to the national profile of teachers about 80% of our teachers in this country are white females and so we still have work to do. I'm not demonizing, I'm not here to demonize nor would i white female teachers I think anyone who goes into the career of teaching wants to serve his or her students well and views teaching as a calling but we do have more work as a nation to do and diversifying than the teaching force. Only about 8% of our teachers our African-American nationwide. Only about 6% to 8% are Hispanic. 11% of the nation's 93,000 principals are African-American, and less than 3% of the nation's 14,000 superintendents are African-American so we still have a lot of work to do in that history of under-representation of African-Americans in particular is tied to the history of the desegregation of schools. I am an elementary teacher at a public charter in DeKalb, I'm planning to leave the classroom after four years I'm completely disenchanted with the institution of Education. What advice would you give to me and other teachers like me? I think that contemporary teachers are under a lot of stress. Most of that stress is related to standardized testing and other mandates that are centrally kind of construed and communicated. Again I go back to this this idea that teachers need communities of support like any other professional and it saddens me to know that someone's going to leave the classroom because of disenchantment. I wonder if they would consider going to another school taking their expertise and becoming a principal so that they could craft the kind of environment that would be the contemplative nurturing environment that we talk we hope for. I I think one message that I have is I'd like to see researchers and teachers and all groups of educators in communities of care that support them as they engage their research and do their practice so that they don't become isolated and inert coalitions can exercise pressure that individuals sometimes cannot you spoke about the negative data and misrepresentation in research how does one go about finding credible sources for accurate information the accurate information that I cited I had to find on my own usually in the middle of night and seems to be between midnight and 3:00 a.m. are the best times to do research unless you're married that doesn't work very well if you're single it might work the data you'll have to find it yourself because it's counter-narrative and it won't be presented to you and you'll have to look at those charts yourself not the narrative beneath the chart and you'll spend a lot of time being challenged about what you present and so for years I don't do it anymore I think when I became a Dean I said I'm not doing this anymore but I used to carry the charts with me and project them on to screen so people could see what I was talking about because I knew it was counter-narrative I knew they hadn't heard it I knew they had heard just the opposite and people would be stunned when they confused like well how well why and then out of that misinformation you have cannons of research built on improving black parental involvement and yet the data don't seem to show that the problem lies where we've been taught to believe the problem is so you will have to find it for yourself and as researchers build these counter-narrative research studies we'll be able to cite one another but it's not an it's not out there enough right now the raw data is there but no-one's reporting on it so we have time for just maybe two more and these are unrelated but I'll ask them both and maybe you can figure out a way to put them together you alluded to the importance of play and fun and education please expand on your thoughts about the role of play and fun and I want to personally thank you for your thought provoking speech how can we create a pipeline of minority educators maybe having fun maybe that's the way to do it you know I often say that you know we need HBCUs in this conversation and we desperately need HBCUs in this conversation today 2018 nearly two decades into a new millennium HBCU still prepare 50 percent of the nation's black teachers so if we're thinking about diversifying the teaching force and we don't include HBCUs we're not authentic about what we're what we're trying to achieve so the first thing I would say is any partnerships with HBCUs or any recognition of HBCUs work will be helpful to this national goal and that's related a bit to the stem conversation too if we want to increase and all teachers now talk about stem if we want to increase the number of minorities in STEM fields a number of students of color in STEM fields science technology engineering and math we're gonna have to engage HBCUs there as well because when you look across the country at the 4,000 colleges and universities the top ten six of the top ten producers of stem bachelor's degrees to african-americans and stem PhDs are HBCUs okay so the number one producer of african-american engineers my nephew in the front row he can stand up Jabari Akoo I'm really proud of them my nephew was just accepted to North Carolina A&T which is the number one producer of african-american engineers and dr. King and I were telling him you know and forgive me English majors it's one thing to be accepted as an English major but to be accepted as an engineering student that's pretty awesome but six of the 10 so if we if we said who are the top 10 awardees of bachelors and doctoral degrees to African Americans in the STEM fields it's not Georgia Tech though we love Georgia Tech it's not MIT Caltech Rensselaer it's North Carolina A&T that holds the national record if we ask what who's the number one producer of on-campus PhDs to blacks in the STEM fields its Howard University it's not so these institutions have to be part of the conversation and lead the conversation on diversifying the nation's teaching force and diversifying our stem workforce we're not producing the most number of stem bachelor's and doctoral recipients or black teachers just because we're black there's an intellectual model that's operating there's a preparation model that has an ethos and an ethic there's something that we can extract to the larger problem that B sets our country so Thank You Joyce and dr. Fenwick dr. King and dr. Fenwick we have one last thing we need to do tonight and it's a gift for you dr. Fenwick from Georgia State University and and the Mays lecture committee but historically yeah if you come up to the lectern historically we've asked dr. Crim's family to present this award so at this time I'm going to ask a mr. Timothy creme to come to the lectern to present the award I just want to share a couple of statements and just say how honored and humble I am to be here and to just thank you dr. Finn wait for that very enlightened vision and empowering lecture and this call to action just give her another hand please the whole idea of looking behind the veil of school reform but I just wanted to share I had the opportunity to know dr. Mayes dr. King and to speak with him and this resulted from time to time with me driving him home after the board meetings of the Atlanta Public Schools and so I had opportunity to talk with him and just really kind of look at some of the words and dr. Finn what you have really inspired some of those words from dr. Mayes that informs us that we today stand on the shoulders of our predecessors who have gone before us we as their successors must catch the torch the torch of freedom when the torch of Liberty passed on to us by our ancestors and we cannot lose this battle and so again thank you and on behalf of the Alonzo a Crim Center for urban educational excellence at Georgia State Dean Alberto and dr. Benson dr. Williams and dr. King in the center whose mission it is to optimize the life opportunities of children and families in urban communities by ensuring the availability of a prosperous and equitable school environment through community engagement research and educational development and support so we'd like to present you with this recognition as the 29th Benjamin Mays lecture I think I've said everything that needed to be said but I do have one thought listening to you that these men dr. Mayes dr. Krim and I also think of Mordecai Wyatt Johnson Howard University's first african-american president they spoke with power and truth and conviction about very difficult racially charged topics at a time when they could have been lynched and if you hear Mordecai Wyatt Johnson in one of those old tapes or you hear dr. Mays or you hear dr. Krim they're speaking when things could have happened to them that were really bad just walking out onto the street and we don't have that pressure before us so I'm hopeful that we seek the truth speak the truth and build coalitions that are diverse and pluralistic around the truth and to me that's the great hope of this Center that dr. Williams so eloquently and elegantly leads us this concludes this year's Mays lecture I'm gonna ask that you pay attention to the back of your program the sources conference with the next time we see you all we hope to see you at sources in October of 2018 we hope that you enjoyed the evening I hope that you've been fed and I hope to see you at sources thank you very much for coming out


Early life

Early life and ancestry

The Millford Plantation is located North of Mays' birthplace in Pinewood.
The Millford Plantation is located North of Mays' birthplace in Pinewood.

Benjamin Elijah Mays was born on August 1, 1894 in Epworth, South Carolina, in the small town of Ninety Six, South Carolina, the youngest of eight children.[5] His mother, Louvenia Carter Mays, and father, Hezekiah Mays, were born into slavery on Virginia and South Carolina plantations, respectively.[6] Both were freed in their later lives with the passage of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.[7] Mays' father often hit him, his siblings and Louvenia growing up, expressing anger about how he was treated by his master.[8] The "Mays" family name was derived from their slaver and owner's name, Henry Hazel Mays; he owned 14 slaves in the same area.[9] Hezekiah worked as a cotton sharecropper to generate income for his family.[10]

Mays was told to be cautious of white people and exhibit black pride whenever possible growing up.[8] Mays' older sister, Susie, began to teach him how to read before his formal schooling commenced, which gave him a year's growth in reading compared to the other students in his primary schools. School officials cited him as "destined for greatness."[11] Growing up, he went by the nickname "Bennie" and was inspired by Fredrick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and Thomas E. Miller.[12] The Bible was influential to young Mays because he could see his name (of Biblical origins) mentioned frequently, instilling a feeling of empowerment within.[13] During this time, Benjamin Tillman rose to power in South Carolina which saw to the redoubling of lynching and segregation in Mays' neighborhood.[14] Throughout his tenure as governor, 18 black men were lynched and dozens were hurt in the 1876 shoot-off.[15] On November 8, 1898, members of the Phoenix Riot–a white suprematist mob–rode up on horses to the Mays household, a repurposed cotton plantation. They drew their guns at Mays' father and told him to remove his hat and bow down to them.[16] The event would stay with Mays throughout his life.[16] A year later, white mobs and Ku Klux Klan members searched his house in search of relatives after local newspapers announced that cotton prices had plummeted.[17]

Early education

Mays traveled to Maine to study at Bates College when he was 23.
Mays traveled to Maine to study at Bates College when he was 23.

In 1911, he was enrolled at the Brick House School in Epworth, a Baptist-sponsored school.[18] He then transferred to the High School Department of South Carolina State College in Orangeburg. He graduated in 1916, aged 22 as its valedictorian.[19] In high school, teachers often let Mays instruct parts of the mathematics curriculum to students in exchange for extra credit.[20] He won awards for debate and mathematics.[21] A teacher at the school had told Mays to seek graduate school at the University of Chicago as he thought the school would best nurture Mays' intellect.[21] However, before attending graduate school Mays needed to seek an undergraduate education. His relatives and teachers forced him to attend a Baptist university–the Virginia Union University. He grew weary of the violence against blacks in Virginia so he sought the guidance of his academic advisors at Virginia Union.[22] They advised him to look into schools in the North as they were typically seen as more prestigious, challenging, and prominent than those of the South.[22]

Four professors at the university had attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine and urged Mays to apply.[23] However, its exacting standards prohibited him from attending. After a year more in Richmond, Mays elevated his grades to the top of his class and wrote personally to Bates president George Colby Chase. Chase granted him a full financial aid package and boarding upon hearing his story and reviewing his academic background.[24] Virginia Union's president warned him that studies at Bates would be "too hard for a colored boy" and that he should stay in Virginia.[25] Mays ignored his warnings and enrolled in 1917, aged 23.[25] While at Bates he felt pressure to compete with "Yankees at the Yankee level" which drove him to dedicate him to his studies.[26] He would write in a diary: "Yankee superiority was the gauntlet thrown down. I had to pick it up."[27] Working to midnight weekly and arising at 4 AM, Mays excelled at Greek, mathematics, and speech.[28] Although he would experience little racism in college, upon seeing The Birth of a Nation in a local cinema, the crowd cheered for the white slaver which frightened Mays.[29] In college, he was captain of the debate team, played on the football team and served as the Class Day Speaker. He graduated with departmental honors with a B.A. in 1920. Contrary to popular writing and official college records, Mays never received Phi Beta Kappa; his attendance of a "school from the South" disqualified him.[30]


Shortly after graduation, he married his first wife, Ellen Edith Harvin, in August 1920 in Newport News, Virginia.[31] The two met when Mays was still in South Carolina and wrote to each other frequently. She was a home economics teacher at a local college before she died after a brief illness two years after they married at age 28.[32] He met his second wife, Sadie Gray, while working at South Carolina State College. After months of courtship, they married on August 9, 1926.[32] Mays was secretive about his relationship with his second wife; he burned the majority of letters and correspondence between them.[33]

Early academic career

Mays studied at the University of Chicago after receiving his B.A. from Bates; he received a M.A. in 1925.
Mays studied at the University of Chicago after receiving his B.A. from Bates; he received a M.A. in 1925.

On January 3, 1921, he then entered the University of Chicago as a graduate student, earning an M.A. in 1925. Early on in his academic career he decided to join Omega Psi Phi, a national fraternity for colored men.[34] This organization was known for pooling resources and information among its members so Mays viewed it with great interest. Mays viewed it as "a mountain top from which he could see above and beyond".[34] In 1924, upon hearing news that there was to be a fraternity meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, Mays traveled by train. However, his decision to travel first class from Birmingham to St. Louis was indirectly against the Jim Crow laws.[34] The ticket salesman only sold Mays a ticket when he lied about who it was for.[34] While riding to St. Louis, the Pullman warned Mays that he was risking his life by sitting in first class and that he should get off at the next stop.[34] Shortly after, three white men, guns drawn, escorted Mays into a car in the back known as the "Jim Crow car".[35] He eventually made it to the Omega Psi Phi meeting, where he spoke of his experience.[35]

To finance his time in university, Mays worked as a Pullman Porter, a railway assistant.[36] Much of the money he had earned growing up was spent financing his time at Bates, on Christmas Day 1921, Mays held only $45 dollars ($587 in 2018 USD).[37] Mays began labor organizing to increase his wage, which was seen negatively by the Porter managers. Although he legally established a labor group for Pullman Porters, he was fired from his job for "attracting too much attention to labor rights."[37] His time at the University of Chicago was marked by segregation. He was asked to sit at the colored area in the dining halls and was only allowed to use certain rooms for reading.[38] Mays tolerated the segregation with the mindset that he was "only there to get a degree, to convince another brilliant set of Yankees that he could do their work."[38] Although he was licensed to preach in 1919, he was officially ordained a Baptist minister in 1921.[38] During this time he encountered John Hope, the current president of Morehouse College. Hope spoke to Mays about the lack of "a fine education for the colored in Atlanta".[37] Mays traveled to Atlanta in 1921 and served as a pastor at the Shiloh Baptist Church until 1923.[39] In March 1925, Mays was award an M.A. in religious studies from the university.[40] Upon receiving his master's degree, he wrote to the pastorate with his intention of resigning to pursue a doctorate in the coming years.[41] However, due to his financial status, he took up a teaching position instructing English at South Carolina State College from 1925 to 1926.[42] Mays left his teaching position after routinely clashing with other faculty over grade inflation and academic standards.[43]

From 1928 to 1930, he worked as the national student secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA).[43] A couple of months later, he was asked to serve as the director of Study of Black Churches in the United States by the Institute of Social and Religious Research of New York.[44] In 1932, Mays returned to the University of Chicago with the intent of completing a Ph.D. in line with what was asked by the Institute of Social and Religious Research of New York.[40] After some deliberation between fields of studies he could pursue a doctorate in he eventually decided to study religion and not mathematics or philosophy.[41] Mays also worked as a student assistant to Dr. Lacey Kirk Williams, pastor of Olivet Baptist Church in Chicago and President of the National Baptist Convention.[32] In 1933, he wrote his first book with Joseph Nicholson, The Negro's Church. It was the first sociological study of the black church in the United States and was submitted to the university faculty as his dissertation in 1935.[45] Historian John Herbert Roper estimates that Mays was one of 20 African Americans so earn a doctorate during that year.[46]

Howard University

Mays worked at Howard University from 1934 to 1940.
Mays worked at Howard University from 1934 to 1940.

Shortly after receiving his doctorate, he was called by the presidents of multiple universities to lead their religion departments.[47] Mays chose to accept a position at Howard University in Washington as its dean of religious studies.[48] He was instructed to build up the department and establish a reputation for well-trained ministers.[48] Mays first renovated its library and secured loans from the federal government to expand it.[49] His second objective was to separate the federally-funded portions of Howard University from the new school of religion. At the time, the university was partially funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior which prohibited funding to religious enterprises.[50] After he successfully removed the School of Religion from the auspices of the federal government he was tasked with securing funding from wealthy donors from the North.[51]

Mays secured a multi-million dollar package from donors by 1930, and was averaging yearly contributions of $750,000 during the Great Depression.[51] The expanding Department of the Interior under Franklin D. Roosevelt, coupled with Mays' fundraising led to unprecedented growth at the university.[52] Salaries for professors increased, new dorms were built and refurbished, the library Mays had been developing was completed, and new lecture halls were established.[52] In 1938, he published his second book, The Negro's God as Reflected in His Literature. In 1939, he secured a large collection of theology books for his new library which prompted the American Association of Theological Schools to accredit the new School of Religion.[53] During this time Mays developed a reputation for exacting standards and elitism.[54] He was a vocal opponent of the notion that black men are inherently more violent than their white counterparts in universities.[55] He was a vocal proponent of the New Negro movement and frequently lectured about its foundlings and applications.[56]

In January 1940, Mays was secretly approached by, John Hervey Wheeler, a trustee of Morehouse College, to see if he was interested in an upcoming search for the college's next president.[57] Wheeler told Mays that the school had a tough time with getting tuition payments out of the students, growing their endowment, and establishing national prominence.[58] Mays expressed interest in the position but Wheeler cautioned him about the odds of him actually being offered the job.[58] On March 10, 1940, Mays was offered the presidency of Morehouse by its trustees; he moved to Atlanta shortly after.[58] When Mays left Howard University, he was honored with the renaming of the newly constructed home of the divinity school to "Benjamin Mays Hall."[32]

Meeting with Gandhi

During 1939, Mays traveled to Mysore, India, where, at the urging of Howard Thurman, a fellow professor at Howard, he spoke at some length with Mahatma Gandhi.[56] The two spoke for an hour and a half about the realities and powers of militant pacifism which he used to shape his civil rights ideology and practice.[59] Mays asked Gandhi about the influence nonviolence had in his life and what his personal thoughts were on the caste system in India.[60] Gandhi told Mays that there was never an instance where violence was acceptable especially that which was undertaken in retaliation.[60] He was told that "one must pay the price for protest, even with one's life".[60] In response to the caste system. Gandhi believed that there those with darker skin were not inherently untouchable but labeled it a "necessary economic injustice".[61]

Morehouse College, 1940–1967

Early years

Mays as the 6th president of Morehouse College.
Mays as the 6th president of Morehouse College.

Mays was offered the presidency on March 10 and inaugurated the sixth president on August 1, 1940.[62] Upon his assumption of the presidency, the school was in severe financial distress.[62] In his first speech to an incoming freshman class in 1940, he said, "If Morehouse is to continue to be great; it must continue to produce outstanding personalities."[63] Mays set out to improve the training of Morehouse men, increase enrollment, grow its endowment, and collect tuition payments.[62]

Many associated with the college referenced him as a "builder of men."[32] To improve the training of Morehouse men, Mays set out to advance a new curriculum based on the New Negro movement.[64] He specifically wished to increase the training of black physicians, ministers and lawyers.[64] Although Morehouse College was not a medical, law, or ministry school, it was a feeder institution into them so Mays took the preparation of his students into these schools seriously.[64]

Financial planning

During his first three months nothing was planned to be or currently being constructed on campus.[62] Mays had inherited "mountains of uncollected student bills" which served as a threat to the liquidity of the college.[62] In 1933, Morehouse was doing so poorly financially that it had allowed Atlanta University to take over its financial direction and budget. He earned a reputation for being a penny-pincher and demanded tuition fees on time, which earned him the nickname "Buck Bennie;" the student newspaper occasionally ran headlines such as "Buck Bennie Rides Again," during the first couple of years of his Morehouse presidency.[44] However, he often helped students pay their bills by offering work or finding it around campus. He would write to the employers of the college's graduates to ask them how the recent grads were doing as a way to measure the Morehouse education.[44] Within two years of his presidency, Mays was so successful that he was able to regain control of Morehouse's finances.[65]

Effects of World War II

Soon after primary advancements were made with the college, World War II broke out and many students were drafted for military service. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Morehouse approached Mays and requested the school be shut down for the remainder of the war, which prompted Mays to lash out and reject his proposition publicly. Mays counter-proposal was to open the school to younger students who were ineligible to be drafted. He moved to improve the academic quality of the students by lowering admissions rates, and reforming the academic platform. College faculty often were encouraged to befriend students and provided them with guidance in a tumultuous social scene at the time.[32]


The introduction to his speech compilation at Morehouse notes him with the following:

In physical stature Mays stood six feet tall, but appeared taller because of his erect posture--a habit he developed during his youth to walk around with dignity and pride; he weighted approximately 180 pounds and had a full head of iron-grey air with a contrasting dark complexion. His distinctive physical appearance commented his towering intellectual stature. When Mays walked into a room, eyes were likely to focus in his direction. His mere physical presence attracted attention.[44]

He received an honorary doctorate and the "Alumnus of the Year" Award from Bates College in 1947 and the University of Chicago in 1949, respectively.[66] Although he was a college president, he was not allowed to vote in the 1950s until he was 52 years old.[44] Pulpit, a magazine focusing on black religious preachers, ranked him among the top 20 preachers in America in 1954. The same year he was one of the "Top Ten Most Powerful Negros" in the nation according to black magazine, Our World.[44]

Jackie Robinson

In 1966, as president, Mays was invited to sit at a Atlanta Braves baseball game as a guest-of-honor by Jackie Robinson when the sports franchise moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta. Robinson invited Mays because of his efforts to integrate the baseball team in Atlanta. Robinson said of Mays: "When we first moved here it was the first team of major league caliber to ever move this far south to play baseball. And of course [Mays] was one of the guys, one of the persons really that made things a lot easier for myself and some of the other black ball players."[67]

Roles in the White House

Jimmy Carter, with Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, Sr, and Mays
Mays (right of Robert F. Kennedy) at the White House

As president he was in great demand as a public speaker. He met hundreds of national and international leaders and served as a trusted advisor to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter. He was appointed by President Truman to the Mid-Century White House Conference on Children and Youth. When Pope John XXIII died in 1963, President Kennedy sent Mays and his Vice President to represent the United States at the funeral in Rome, Italy.[68] During the Kennedy administration, southern members of the Senate blocked Mays' appointment to the United States Civil Rights Commission by accusing him of being a Communist. Mays denied the charges.[69] His relationship with President Jimmy Carter was marked with "warmth" and "hospitality." Carter visited Mays' home in Atlanta, and Mays in turn campaigned for Carter during his 1976 and 1980 presidential runs. Carter wrote to Mays on a monthly basis during his presidency asking him about "humans rights, international affairs, and discrimination."[44]

Final years

Mays wanted to hire more teachers, and to pay those teachers a better salary. To do that, Mays sought to be more strict in the collection of student fees, and wanted to increase Morehouse's endowment from $1,114,000. He more than quadrupled the endowment that he inherited by the end of his 27-year tenure.[65][70] Over Mays' twenty-seven years leading Morehouse, the enrollment increased 169%, from 238 to almost a thousand students and furthered the motivation for graduates to pursue graduate studies.[44]

Connection to Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. considered Mays his "spiritual father".
Martin Luther King Jr. considered Mays his "spiritual father".

Mays first became associated with Martin Luther King Jr. during his time as a student at Morehouse College.[1] While King was a student from 1944 to 1948 he often went to Morehouse's chapel to hear Mays preach. After the sermons, King would run up to Mays and engage with him about the ideas he presented often following him into his office, hours after the sermon ended.[44] He was also a friend of Martin Luther King Jr.'s father, Martin Luther King Sr. and often participated with him religious organizations in Atlanta. Mays dined at the King's homes every so often and spoke with the young Martin Luther King Jr. about his career prospects and ambitions. His mother, Alberta Williams King said Mays was a "great influence on Martin Luther King Jr.," "[an] example of what kind of minister Martin could become," and "possessor of great moral principles."[44]

While King was only his 20s, Mays helped him assume to responsibility of his actions in the civil rights rallies he participated in. King needed Mays "for spiritual support as he faced the burden of being perceived as the personification of black America's hopes and dreams, Iit was Mays who held the job as King's consigliere over the next fourteen years as the death threats against him grew more ominous and the public battles more dangerous."[1]

After King gained national attention as a consequence of his 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, he began to refer to Mays as his "spiritual and intellectual mentor", which enhanced the friendship they had and prompted Mays to be more involved with King's civil rights endeavors. Mays revered him as his "spiritual son".[1] Mays gave the benediction at the close of the official program of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.[71][72]

"No man is ahead of his time" speech

External audio
No Man Is Ahead of His Time - Dr. Benjamin E. Mays delivers Dr. King's Eulogy Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church,  April 9, 1968

The two developed a close relationship that continued until King's assassination by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968.[73] King and Mays promised each other that whoever outlived the other would deliver the eulogy at the other's funeral.[74][75]

On April 9, 1968, Mays delivered a eulogy that would later be known as the "No Man is Ahead of His Time" speech.[74] He noted King's time in history to an estimated 150,000 mourners[74] by stating in his most famous passage:

If Jesus was called to preach the Gospel to the poor, Martin Luther was called to give dignity to the common man. If a prophet is one who interprets in clear and intelligible language the will of God, Martin Luther King Jr. fits that designation. If a prophet is one who does not seek popular causes to espouse, but rather the causes he thinks are right, Martin Luther qualified on that score.

No! He was not ahead of his time. No man is ahead of his time. Every man is within his star, each in his time. Each man must respond to the call of God in his lifetime and not in somebody else's time. Jesus had to respond to the call of God in the first century A.D., and not in the 20th century. He had but one life to live. He couldn't wait.[74] 

The speech was well received by the attendants of the funeral and the American populate.[76] It was later hailed as "a masterpiece of twentieth century oratory."[44]

After the death of King, Mays drew controversy when his sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church urged an audience of mostly white people, "not to dishonor [King's] name by trying to solve our problems through rioting in the streets. If they could turn their sorrow into hope for the future and use their outrage to invigorate a peaceful climb to the mountaintop, Martin Luther King Jr. will have died a redemptive death from which all mankind will benefit."[1]

After Morehouse, 1967–1981

Social tours and advocacy

Mays, during his social tours, was honored at the South Carolina State House in 1978.
Mays, during his social tours, was honored at the South Carolina State House in 1978.

Mays began teaching again, and served as a private advisor to the president of Michigan State University and went on to publish Disturbed About Man, a collection of his sermons at Morehouse College. His publications described his early life in South Carolina and the racial tensions he had to overcome. During this time he began to give speeches and commencement addresses at various intuitions to spread both religious and racial tolerance. He ended his social tours in the early 1980s, giving a total of 250 commencement addresses at colleges, universities, and schools. In 1978, the U.S. Department of Education granted him the Distinguished Educator Award and the South Carolina State House hung a commissioned portrait of him in its chamber.[77] These awards from South Carolina were deeply appreciated by Mays as he left the state in fear of his life and this he loved. During the social transformation of the South in the 1970s, Mays' legacy in his birthplace was solidified and he took on the title of "native son".[44][78][79]

Atlanta board presidency

At age seventy-five, Mays was elected president of the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education, where he supervised the peaceful desegregation of Atlanta's public schools as a consequence of the 1970 federal court order. Members of the board argued that since the bussing was not a part of their system they did not have to create one for desegregation; however, the idea was shot down by Mays, who cited the Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education Supreme Court decision.[77] It was during this time that Mays ordered the city to create bus routes to cater to African-American neighborhoods. The board did not support the decision and asked the Georgia's Attorney General, Arthur K. Bolton, for a review of the case. Bolton brought the city government together with the board and with Mays created what was known as the Atlanta Compromise Plan.[77]

His "commanding and demanding personality" was largely credited for the exponential levels of desegregation in Atlanta.[32] The Atlanta Compromise Plan prompted Mays to advocate for the administration of the plan to be "colorless", that is to say, black and white students were transported on the same routes, in the same buses. This was named the "Majority to Minority" volunteer plan, better known as the "M to M" plan. The plan also allowed each student whose race was in the minority to transfer to a school that had the majority race; this was advantageous to the black populace of Atlanta. The program was later known as the "Volunteer Transfer Program" or VTP, and was ministered by the federal courts and the board. On July 28, 1974, Mays signed the alignment order declaring that the Atlanta School System was unitary.[77]

On July 1, 1973, Mays appointed Alonzo Crim as the first African-American superintendent of schools, which was met with backlash from the other board members and city officials. He used his power and influence in Atlanta to shield Crim from the criticism and allowed him the opportunity to run the school system.[77] During the later part of his tenure he greatly expanded the jurisdiction of the board, and upon his retirement in 1981 Mays was honored by the naming of a street. Near the end of his tenure, the board voted to name a newly constructed school after Mays; Mays High School was constructed on February 10, 1985, and was open to students of all races. He retired from the board in 1981.[32] The Atlanta Board of Education had a rule against naming buildings after people unless they had been deceased for two years; they waived it for Mays; he visited the school frequently when it was being built.[77] He is widely credited as the most influential figure in the desegregation of Atlanta, Georgia.[32]

Death and legacy

A statue of Mays sits feet away from his memorial on the grounds of Morehouse College.
A statue of Mays sits feet away from his memorial on the grounds of Morehouse College.

Benjamin Mays died on March 28, 1984 in Atlanta, Georgia. He was initially buried at South-View Cemetery, but in May 1995 his body was entombed on the campus of Morehouse College along with his wife Sadie.[80][81] Morehouse College established the Benjamin E. Mays Scholarship shortly after his death.[66]

Boston University professor Lawrence Carter described Mays as "one of the most significant figures in American history."[67] Andrew Young said of Mays: "if there hadn't of been [sic] a Benjamin Mays there would not have been a Martin Luther King Jr. He was very much a product of Dr. Mays religious thinking."[82][83][84] He was known to Dillard University president Samuel Dubose Cook as "[one of the] great architects of the civil rights movement. Not only in training individuals but in writing his books, leadership in churches, as a pastor, college president. He set the standard. And he was uncompromising."[67] In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Benjamin Mays on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[85]

Sites and honors

In his home state of South Carolina he was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in 1984.[86] His childhood home was relocated from Epworth to Greenwood, SC and is listed as a State Historic Site by the government of South Carolina,[87] and was referred to as an "education icon" by the South Carolina Radio Network in 2011.[88] Upon his death Mays was designated Phi Beta Kappa, Delta Sigma Rho, Delta Theta Chi, Omega Psi Phi.[86]

Nationally, he was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1982.[89][90] He was elected to the Schomburg Honor Roll of Race Relations along with "only a dozen major leaders to be so honored."[91] In 2011, Wiliams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, introduced the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship at Williams College.[69] The National School Boards Association created the Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award for "an individual who—during his or her lifetime—has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to the educational needs of urban school children through his or her service as a local school board member."[92] Due to his stature in academia he was frequently awarded honorary degreess from universities. He was awarded 40 of them during his lifetime[93] and as of February 2018, he has received 56 honorary degrees.[32]

Bates College's highest alumni distinction is known as the Benjamin E. Mays Medal and is reserved for "the alumna or alumnus who has performed distinguished service to the larger (worldwide) community and been deemed a graduate of outstanding accomplishment." The inaugural winner was Mays himself.[94] The college established the Benjamin E. Mays Distinguished Professorship in 1985.[77]

Mays has been the subject or inspiration of memorials, and the eponym of hundreds of buildings, schools, streets, halls, awards, grants, scholarships, fellowships, and statues. Although he through his life had been appreciative of all of them, he "[was] reported to have said he was moved most deeply when a small black church in Ninety Six, South Carolina, renamed itself Mays United Methodist Church.[95] There are numerous memorials to Mays in the United States, including:[96][75][97][98][44]

  • Benjamin E. Mays High School, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
  • Benjamin E. Mays Drive in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
  • Benjamin E. Mays Archives in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
  • Benjamin E. Mays National Memorial in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
  • The Statue of Benjamin E. Mays at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
  • Benjamin Mays Hall of Howard University, in Washington, D.C., U.S.
  • Benjamin Mays Center of Bates College, in Lewiston, Maine, U.S.
  • Benjamin E. Mays International Magnet School, in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
  • Mays House Museum, in Greenwood, South Carolina, U.S.
  • Benjamin Mays Historic Site, in Greenwood, South Carolina, U.S.
  • Mays United Methodist Church, in Ninety Six, South Carolina, U.S.
  • Mays Crossroads on Highway 171 in Ninety Six, South Carolina, U.S.
  • Benjamin E. Mays Elementary Academy, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
  • Benjamin E. Mays High School in Pacolet, South Carolina, U.S.

Medal of Freedom effort

After Mays stepped down from the Atlanta Board of Education presidency in 1981, a petition was sent to the desk of U.S. President Ronald Reagan requesting that Mays be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but it was turned down. Georgian representative John Lewis proposed a bill in January 1993 that would commemorate Mays on a federal stamp and requested that Mays be given the Medal of Freedom posthumously. The request was sent to U.S. President Bill Clinton but his time as president ended before he could address the request. A request was sent once again to U.S. President George Bush by Georgian representatives Max Cleland and Zell Miller which passed both houses of Congress but has yet to be signed by a U.S. president.[99] The petition was sent once more in 2012 to U.S. President Barack Obama, yet failed to be awarded.[100]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e "Benjamin Mays found a voice for civil rights". The University of Chicago. April 4, 2017. Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  2. ^ Prial, Frank J. (November 3, 1984). "Benjamin Mays, Educator, Dies; Served as Inspiration to Dr. King". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  3. ^ "Mays and King". November 2, 2008. Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  4. ^ Jelks (2012), p. 292–98
  5. ^ Roper (2012), p. 5
  6. ^ Roper (2012), pp. 5–6
  7. ^ Mays House Museum. "Mays House Museum -  History".
  8. ^ a b Roper (2012), p. 6
  9. ^ Roper (2012), pp. 7, 10
  10. ^ Roper (2012), p. 11
  11. ^ Dumas (2006), p. 33
  12. ^ Roper (2012), p. 12
  13. ^ Roper (2012), p. 13
  14. ^ Roper (2012), pp. 17–18
  15. ^ Roper (2012), p. 25
  16. ^ a b Roper (2012), p. 15
  17. ^ Roper (2012), p. 33
  18. ^ Roper (2012), p. 35
  19. ^ Roper (2012), pp. 44–46
  20. ^ Roper (2012), p. 47
  21. ^ a b Roper (2012), p. 52
  22. ^ a b Roper (2012), p. 55
  23. ^ Roper (2012), p. 55–57
  24. ^ Roper (2012), p. 59, 60, 62–64
  25. ^ a b Roper (2012), p. 59
  26. ^ Roper (2012), p. 60
  27. ^ Roper (2012), p. 61
  28. ^ Roper (2012), p. 64
  29. ^ Roper (2012), p. 68
  30. ^ Roper (2012), p. 71
  31. ^ Roper (2012), p. 73
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dumas, Carrie (2006). Benjamin Elijah Mays. Ladd Library, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine: Mercer University Press. pp. 33, 144, 200. ISBN 0881460168.
  33. ^ Roper (2012), p. 75
  34. ^ a b c d e Roper (2012), p. 107
  35. ^ a b Roper (2012), p. 108
  36. ^ Roper (2012), p. 79
  37. ^ a b c Roper (2012), p. 80
  38. ^ a b c Roper (2012), p. 81
  39. ^ College, Morehouse. "Morehouse College | Benjamin E. Mays Bio". Retrieved 2018-02-22.
  40. ^ a b Roper (2012), p. 117
  41. ^ a b Roper (2012), p. 118
  42. ^ Roper (2012), p. 119
  43. ^ a b Roper (2012), p. 126
  44. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Colston, Freddie C. (October 1, 2002). Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Speaks: Representative Speeches of a Great American Orator. University Press of America. ISBN 9780761823438.
  45. ^ Roper (2012), pp. 150, 156
  46. ^ Roper (2012), p. 159
  47. ^ Roper (2012), p. 174
  48. ^ a b Roper (2012), p. 175
  49. ^ Roper (2012), p. 180
  50. ^ Roper (2012), p. 181
  51. ^ a b Roper (2012), p. 182
  52. ^ a b Roper (2012), p. 183
  53. ^ Roper (2012), p. 189
  54. ^ Roper (2012), p. 182 states: "Mays was not afraid to be an elitist, but he preferred the treat of merit, value, and worthiness."
  55. ^ Roper (2012), p. 192
  56. ^ a b Roper (2012), p. 193
  57. ^ Roper (2012), p. 204
  58. ^ a b c Roper (2012), p. 205
  59. ^ Roper (2012), pp. 193–95
  60. ^ a b c Roper (2012), p. 195
  61. ^ Roper (2012), p. 196
  62. ^ a b c d e Roper (2012), p. 208
  63. ^ Jelks, Randal Maurice. Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement : A Biography. Chapel Hill, NC, USA: University of North Carolina Press, 2012. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 5 November 2014.
  64. ^ a b c Roper (2012), p. 210
  65. ^ a b Mays, Benjamin E.. Born to Rebel : An Autobiography. Athens, GA, USA: University of Georgia Press, 2003. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 5 November 2014.
  66. ^ a b Mays, Benjamin Elijah (2002-01-01). Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Speaks: Representative Speeches of a Great American Orator. University Press of America. ISBN 9780761823438.
  67. ^ a b c "Transcript-Benjamin Mays" (PDF).
  68. ^ "The Life of Benjamin Elijah Mays".
  69. ^ a b "Introduction to MMUF and Dr. Benjamin E. Mays". Special Academic Programs. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  70. ^ Roper, John Herbert. Magnificent Mays : A Biography of Benjamin Elijah Mays. Columbia, SC, USA: University of South Carolina Press, 2012. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 5 November 2014.
  71. ^ "HD Stock Video Footage - Dr. Benjamin E. Mays delivering benediction prayer at conclusion of "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom"". Retrieved May 28, 2017.
  72. ^ "Benjamin Mays benediction". Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  73. ^ "King Encyclopedia,"
  74. ^ a b c d "April 1968: Benjamin Mays '20 delivers final eulogy for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. | 150 Years | Bates College". Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  75. ^ a b "Mays House Museum". Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  76. ^ "April 1968: Benjamin Mays '20 delivers final eulogy for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. | 150 Years | Bates College". Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  77. ^ a b c d e f g Dumas, Carrie M.; Hunter, Julie (April 19, 2017). Benjamin Elijah Mays: A Pictorial Life and Times. Mercer University Press. ISBN 9780881460162.
  78. ^ College, Morehouse. "Morehouse College | Benjamin E. Mays Bio". Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  79. ^ "Greenwood to honor education icon, native son (AUDIO)". South Carolina Radio Network. 2011-04-25. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  80. ^ Hagans, Gail; Manuel, Marlon (May 22, 1995). "At two resilient schools, it's time to celebrate". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. p. B4. Retrieved September 3, 2018 – via ... the remains of Morehouse luminary Benjamin E. Mays and his wife, Sadie, were moved from Southview Cemetery late Saturday and placed in a marble memorial on the school campus Sunday.
  81. ^ "Dr. Benjamin E. Mays | MMUF". Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  82. ^ "The Benjamin Mays Model | Inside Higher Ed". Retrieved 2018-01-12.
  83. ^ "Benjamin Mays found a voice for civil rights". The University of Chicago. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
  84. ^ "Benjamin Mays (ca. 1894-1984)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
  85. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.
  86. ^ a b "Benjamin Mays facts, information, pictures | articles about Benjamin Mays". Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  87. ^ "Benjamin Mays Historic Site". Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  88. ^ "Greenwood to honor education icon, native son (AUDIO)". South Carolina Radio Network. April 25, 2011. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  89. ^ "Dr. Benjamin E. Mays - Alonzo A. Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence". Retrieved 2016-03-07.
  90. ^ "NAACP Spingarn Medal". Archived from the original on May 5, 2014.
  91. ^ "Dr. Benjamin E. Mays | MMUF". Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  92. ^ "Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award | National School Boards Association". Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  93. ^ "Benjamin E. Mays Biography at Black History Now". Black Heritage Commemorative Society. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  94. ^ "Benjamin Mays Medal" (PDF).
  95. ^ "Benjamin E. Mays Biography at Black History Now". Black Heritage Commemorative Society. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  96. ^ "Benjamin E. Mays IB World School / HOME". Retrieved May 28, 2017.
  97. ^ "Our History". Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  98. ^ "Benjamin Mays Historic Site". Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  99. ^ "Presidential Medal of Freedom for Benjamin Mays '20?". March 1, 2001. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  100. ^ "Letter to the Editor: A Petition to Honor Dr. Benjamin E. Mays with the Presidential Medal of Freedom". Cascade, GA Patch. January 18, 2012. Retrieved April 19, 2017.

Cited in footnotes

  • Jelks, Randal Maurice. (2015). Benjamin Elijah Mays: Schoolmaster of the Movement: A Biography. University of North Carolina. Print. ISBN 978-0-8078-6987-1.
  • Roper, John Herbert. (2012). "The Magnificent Mays: A Biography of Benjamin Elijah Mays". The University of South Carolina Press. Print. ISBN 9781611170771.
  • Lawler, Milton. (2011). "Benjamin E. Mays : the role of character in the prolonged struggle for African American civil rights". The Lawler Association. Print. ISBN 9780985451202
  • Dumas, Carrie M. (2006). "Benjamin Elijah Mays: a Pictorial Life and Times. Mercer University Press. Print. ISBN 0881460168
  • Rovaris, Dereck Joseph. (2005). "Mays and Morehouse: how Benjamin E. Mays developed Morehouse College, 1940-1967". Beckham House. Print. ISBN 0931761891
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