"A WEAPON FOR POLITICAL AND SOCIAL ACTIVISM": VERY RARE FIRST EDITION OF ALEXANDER CRUMMELL'S AFRICA AND AMERICA, 1891, AN EXCEPTIONAL ASSOCIATION COPY INSCRIBED AND TWICE SIGNED BY PREEMINENT BLACK HISTORIAN JOHN WESLEY CROMWELL
(CROMWELL, JOHN WESLEY) CRUMMELL, Alex[ander]. Africa and America. Addresses and Discourses. Springfield, Mass.: Willey & Co., 1891. Octavo, original burgundy cloth recornered and rebacked with original spine laid down. $6800.
First edition of the last major work published in the lifetime of the preeminent 19th-century "Black nationalist and Pan-Africanist," a leader W.E.B. Du Bois considered "one of his greatest influences… his 'guru,'" with this especially important association copy containing the owner inscription and signatures of Black historian John Wesley Cromwell—signed on the title page by him, additionally signed and inscribed by him on the front free endpaper, "J.W. Cromwell, Washington D.C."
Crummell, together with Martin Delany, Henry Highland Garnet and William Cooper Nell, formed "the backbone of the national Black leadership" (Rael, Eighty-Eight Years, 142-43). His works "not only reveal the political, social and spiritual concerns of a 19th-century African American but they also represent part of the framework from which modern-day African American political rhetoric has developed. Crummell's practice of countering racism and discrimination through the application of historical and scientific information would be adopted by turn-of-the-century African American scholars who followed his example of turning scholarship into a weapon for political and social activism." He spent nearly 20 years in Liberia as a statesman and missionary. There, "not unlike Cotton Mather's vision of America as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, Crummell saw in Liberia the fulfillment of God's prophecy for the civilization of Blacks" (Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 142-43). On returning to the U.S. in 1872-73, he became rector of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.
A lifelong "outspoken and active Black nationalist and Pan-Africanist… in 1897 he founded the American Negro Academy, one of the first African American think tanks. Its members ultimately included the prominent Black intellectuals Alain Locke, Kelly Miller and W.E.B. Du Bois. who proclaimed Crummell "his 'guru' and one of the greatest influences on his intellectual and moral development." After Crummell met Frederick Douglass at the 1847 National Negro Convention, they debated at Harpers Ferry in 1855, and "worked together on developing the best approach to abolish slavery and caste in America" (Finkelman, Encyclopedia of African American History V.1, 356). As exemplified by the title of the first of 16 works in this exceptional first edition—The Need for New Ideas and New Motives for a New Era—his writings in this major collection forcefully address "pressing concerns of African Americans in post-Reconstruction America—the abuse of Black women in the South at the hands of the white male ruling class, the prevailing presence of racial discrimination… the problem of labor and education for the emancipated African American" (Oxford Companion, 142-43). Crummell, who died in 1898, "stands out among his contemporaries… [his] writings possess "a breadth and depth not matched by other enlightenment thinkers" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). First edition, first printing: frontispiece portrait with facsimile signature below image; as issued without dust jacket. Contains 16 lengthy essays, including a number of major speeches. Work, 353. This rare and important association copy offers an exceptional provenance in possessing the inscription and owner signatures of leading 19th-century African American lawyer, educator, author and civil rights activist John Wesley Cromwell. Born enslaved in 1846, he graduated from Howard University Law School in 1874, was publisher and editor of People's Advocate for nearly a decade, and co-founder and president of the Bethel Literary and Historical Association, "whose meetings attracted Frederick Douglass and other leading black scholars and activists." While he early endorsed "Booker T. Washington's vision of Black education… Cromwell came to believe that African American leaders should subordinate the quest for education and material success to seeking political solutions to racial problems." Cromwell also had a lifelong interest in book collecting that led to a close friendship with Arthur Schomburg. "In 1915 the two men helped organize the Negro Book Collectors Exchange" (Encylopedia Virgina). Cromwell, who died in 1927, notably authored influential works such as Jim Crow Negro (1904), Negro in American History (1914), and articles for Journal of Negro History, including Aftermath of Nat Turner's Insurrection (1920).
Interior fine, original cloth boards very fresh. A handsome near-fine copy with an outstanding association.