Archive for the ‘Langston Hughes’ Tag

Feast of Lucy Craft Laney (April 15)   1 comment

Above:  Kindergarten, Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, Augusta, Georgia, 1899

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-132449 (b&w film copy neg.)

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LUCY CRAFT LANEY (APRIL 13, 1854-OCTOBER 24, 1933)

African-American Presbyterian Educator and Civil Rights Activist

Lucy Craft Laney comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Our saint was a daughter of former slaves.  David Laney, a carpenter, was a Presbyterian minister.  In 1838, slaves who had been members of First Presbyterian Church, Macon, Georgia, became part of the African chapel, the origin of Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church.  Laney was a “leader,” functioning as a minister, of this congregation.  His ordination in 1866 made his ministerial status official.  He, having purchased his freedom in the 1830s, married Louisa, whose freedom he also purchased.  The couple had ten children.  Number seven was Lucy Craft Laney, born in Macon on April 13, 1854.

Presbyterian denominational history can be very confusing, even for those initiated into the mysteries of mergers and schisms.  I, having studied these matters closely, write authoritatively about them.  In the case of Lucy Craft Laney, I conclude that she belonged to the following denominations, in order:

  1. the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (Old School), until December 1861; then
  2. the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (December 1861-December 1865), which changed its name to the Presbyterian Church in the United States in December 1865.

Our saint’s family taught her the value of education.  She learned to read and write by the age of four years.  When she was twelve years old, Laney translated difficult passages of Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars from Latin.  Her formal education came courtesy of the American Missionary Association, which founded schools for African Americans in the former Confederacy.  She attended Lewis High School, Macon, from 1865 to 1869.  After graduating, she matriculated at Atlanta University.  Ironically, she could not formally study the classics there because of her gender; Laney objected.  Our saint, who graduated in 1873, had her credentials as a teacher.

Laney spent a decade teaching in other people’s schools.  She taught in Macon, Savannah, Milledgeville, and Augusta.  Then, in 1883, she founded what became Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in Augusta.  The first “campus” was the basement of Christ Presbyterian Church, Augusta.  This African-American congregation, formed in October 1882, had separated from First Presbyterian Church, Augusta.

Laney served as principal from 1883 to 1933.  The school became Haines Normal and Industrial Institute because one Francine Haines donated $10,000 ($282,862.94, adjusted for inflation, as of the day I am typing this sentence) in 1886.  The State of Georgia chartered the school that year.  The Haines Institute, which moved to its new campus on Gwinnett Street (now Laney-Walker Boulevard) grew to 34 teachers and 900 students by 1912.  The school offered sewing classes, the first African-American kindergarten in Augusta, the first African-American nursing school in Augusta, orchestral concerts and other cultural events, and a college preparatory program.  Laney taught Latin.  Many graduates matriculated at respected Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).  Novelist Frank Yerby (1916-1991), a native of Augusta, was an alumnus of the Haines Institute; he attended the school toward the end of Laney’s life.  Another famous person connected to the Haines Institute was Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955), who taught there for a year then moved on to make her mark elsewhere.

Laney was active in the struggle for civil rights.  She, a friend of luminaries such as W. E. B. DuBois (1868-1963), Langston Hughes (1902-1967), and Madam C. J. Walker/Sarah Breedlove (1867-1919), was active in the National Association of Colored Women and the Interracial Commission.  She also helped to organize the Augusta Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.) in 1918.  Furthermore, Laney helped to integrate the work of the Augusta branches of the Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.) and the Young Women’s Christian Association (Y.W.C.A.).

Laney died in Augusta on October 24, 1933.  “Miss Lucy” was 79 years old.

Haines Normal and Industrial Institute closed in 1949.  Laney High School replaced it.  Sadly, not one of the buildings of the Haines Institute has survived the ravages of time and political decisions.

Gwinnett Street, which borders the campus of Christ Presbyterian Church and the site of the former Haines Institute, has become Laney-Walker Boulevard.  Dr. Charles T. Walker was one of the founders of Atlanta University.

In 1974, Governor Jimmy Carter unveiled the first three portraits of African Americans in the state capitol.  The three honorees were Bishop Henry McNeal Turner (1834-1915); Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968), and Lucy Craft Laney.

The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and Conference Center, Augusta, opened in 1991.

Fortunately, the indirect and intergenerational influence of Lucy Craft Laney has continued to grow.

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Everlasting God, you teach us that your ways frequently conflict with many of our societal norms.

We thank you for the life and legacy of your servant, Lucy Craft Laney.

May we, inspired by her example, resist social injustice and

testify with our lives to the image of God present in all people.

May we, empowered by the Holy Spirit, transform our societies,

changing our societal norms so that they will more closely resemble your ways,

for your glory and the benefit of all people.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Proverbs 2:1-5

Psalm 25:1-10

Galatians 3:23-29

Matthew 5:13-16

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BINNEY, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND “ARCHBISHOP OF NONCONFORMITY”

THE FEAST OF ANNA JULIA HAYWOOD COOPER AND ELIZABETH EVELYN WRIGHT, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATORS

THE FEAST OF FRED ROGERS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HOST OF MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BADGER, SR., U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST AND PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER; FIRST MISSIONARY TO THE WESTERN RESERVE

THE FEAST OF PEDRO ARRUPE, ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR AND MARGINALIZED, AND SUPERIOR GENERAL OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS

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Feast of Sarah Louise Delany, Annie Elizabeth Delany, and Hubert Thomas Delany (September 25)   Leave a comment

Above:  Sadie, Bessie, and Hubert Delany

Fair Use Images

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SARAH LOUISE “SADIE” DELANY (SEPTEMBER 19, 1889-JANUARY 25, 1999)

African-American Educator

sister of

ANNIE ELIZABETH “BESSIE” DELANY (SEPTEMBER 3, 1891-SEPTEMBER 25, 1995)

African-American Dentist

and their brother

HUBERT THOMAS DELANY (MAY 11, 1901-DECEMBER 28, 1990)

African-American Attorney, Judge, and Civil Rights Activist

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INTRODUCTION

The Episcopal Church has, in recent years, made the transition from having one calendar of saints (Lesser Feasts and Fasts, most recently revised in 2018; previously revised in 2006) to two calendars of saints, with the optional Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) and its successor, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016).  Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, although expanded from Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006, still commemorates fewer saints than the optional books.  It also remains the official calendar of saints for the denomination.

The Episcopal Church usually permits a minimum of four decades to pass before it adds someone to either of its calendars of saints, for the Anglican position is that history makes saints.  The passage of time allows for perspective, which is what separates history from journalism.  The denomination does make a few exceptions to the “reasonable passage of time” guideline, however, as in the case of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., one of Hubert Thomas Delany‘s clients, added at the General Convention of 1988, two decades after the great civil rights leader’s assassination.  The Appendix to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016) contains a list of people deemed worthy of remaining in the institutional church’s memory yet who have not met the “reasonable passage of time” rule yet.  That list includes the Delany sisters, noted for their lives devoted to public service.  I add their brother Hubert also, for the same rationale.  The three siblings belong on this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

The Delanys were a remarkable family.  Bishop Henry Beard Delany, Sr. (1858-1928)added to Holy Women, Holy Men at the General Convention of 2009, was a great man.  His wife, Nannette Logan James (1861-1956), was a great woman.  He, born a slave in St. Marys, Georgia, became an Episcopal priest and, in the last decade of his life, a bishop who ministered to African Americans in several southeastern states.  Both partners in the marriage were educators attached to St. Augustine’s College, Raleigh, North Carolina.  Nannette was the chief matron.  Henry was an administrator, a faculty member, the college chaplain, a college architect, and a musician, also.  The Delanys challenged Jim Crow in their society and institutional racism in The Episcopal Church.  Henry, in particular, was a threat to certain powerful, racist elements in the denomination.  The Delanys raised their ten children well.  Growing up in Raleigh at the time exposed the younger Delanys to Jim Crow laws and to news of lynchings.  Most of the Delany children grew up to make great contributions to society.  Their number included educators, musicians, a mortician, a jurist, and doctors of various specialties.

SADIE AND BESSIE (I)

Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany (1889-1999) and Annie Elizabeth “Bessie” Delany (1891-1995) were a pair.  Both of them studied at St. Augustine’s College to become teachers.  Sadie left for New York City first.  She arrived in 1916, and eventually graduated from the Teachers College of Columbia University.  Sadie became the first African-American woman allowed to teach high school home economics in New York City.  Bessie arrived in the “Big Apple” in 1918.  She, denied admission to the dental program at New York University because of her gender, matriculated at Columbia University instead.  Bessie, graduating in 1923, became the second African-American woman licensed to practice dentistry in the city.  She was, to many of her clients, “Dr. Bessie, Harlem’s colored woman dentist.”  For many years Bessie and brother Henry Beard Delany, Jr. (1895-1991) had a private practice.  They charged affordable fees and never turned anyone away.  The sisters never married, for, at the time, married women seldom had their own careers.  Meanwhile, they were part of the Harlem Renaissance scene.  Notable friends and associates included W. E. B. DuBois, Paul Robeson (one of Hubert’s clients), and Langston Hughes.  Sadie and Bessie shared an apartment in Manhattan until 1928, when their father, the bishop, died.  Then they and their mother moved into a house in the Bronx.  After Nannette died in 1956, Sadie and Bessie purchased a two-family house in Mount Vernon, New York.  Both sisters died in their sleep in that house many years later.

HUBERT

Hubert Thomas Delany (1901-1990) went into law.  He graduated from the City College of New York (Class of 1923) and the New York University School of Law (Class of 1926).  College jobs included working on a farm, working as a Pullman car porter, and teaching elementary school in Harlem.  Throughout his career Hubert championed the causes of unjustly marginalized members of society.  From 1926 to 1933 he was Assistant U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York.  In 1926 Hubert married Clarissa Mae Scott (1901-1927), a poet who was part of the Harlem Renaissance.  She was also an educator, an essayist, and a social worker associated with the National Urban League.  She died of kidney disease in 1927, sadly.  The widower ran (as a Republican) for the vacant U.S. House seat representing Harlem in 1929; he won about 40% of the votes cast.  Hubert did, however, come to the attention of Fiorello La Guardia (1882-1947), Mayor of New York City from 1933 to 1945.  Mayor La Guardia appointed our saint to the Tax Commission.  In 1939 Hubert, as attorney of Marian Anderson, helped to arrange for her famous concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

In 1942 Hubert married Willietta S. Mickey (1907-2000), who had been his secretary when he had served on the Tax Commission.  Mayor La Guardia presided at the ceremony.  Willetta was also a mover and a shaker for good; she founded Adopt-A-Child, to help place minority children in adoptive families.  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt supported this initiative publicly.

Hubert was a judge of the Family Court of New York City from 1942 to 1955.  He became a respected expert on juvenile issues, such as delinquency.  He, known as a fair judge, nevertheless incurred the wrath of reactionaries, who accused him of being too liberal, especially in the context of McCarthyism.  Hubert, outspoken in his support of civil rights, opposed loyalty oaths to the U.S. Government and defended the right of Socialists and Communists to be Socialists and Communists.  When our saint ceased to be a family court judge, politics was the reason.

Hubert was, by some standards, a radical, as he should have been.  He, for many year a member of the boards of the NAACP and its Legal Defense and Educational Fund, argued that the organization’s civil rights strategy was too conservative.  He also appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1956 and 1958 to represent people accused of being members of the Communist Party.  In 1963 Governor Nelson Rockefeller appointed our saint the chairman of the temporary State Commission on Low-Income Housing, informally the Delany Commission.  The commission proposed that the state subsidize low-income housing in middle-class neighborhoods.  The commission’s work led to the expansion of affordable housing in the State of New York.  Later in life Hubert also worked on issues related to the education of and health care for minorities.

Hubert, aged 89 years, died in New York on December 28, 1990.

SADIE AND BESSIE (II)

Sadie and Bessie outlived their siblings.  They joked that they lived as long as they did because they had no husbands to worry them to death.  Seriously, though, the sisters maintained healthy lifestyles, minimized stress, and retained their faculties.  Their book, Having Our Say:  The Delany Sisters’ First 100 years (1993), spent 28 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller List.  The following year they published their second book, The Delany Sisters’ Book of Everyday Wisdom.  Bessie, aged 104 years, died on September 25, 1995.  She, having broken her hip the previous year, never recovered.  Sadie lived to the age of 109 years.  She died in her sleep on January 25, 1999.  During her final few years Sadie missed her sister, hence the book On My Own at 107:  Reflections on Life Without Bessie.

CONCLUSION

Sadie, Bessie, and Hubert Delany witnessed the world change profoundly.  They also acted to change that world for the bettter.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAPHNUTIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UPPER THEBAID

THE FEAST OF ANNE HOULDITCH SHEPHERD, ANGLICAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN STAINER AND WALTER GALPIN ALCOCK, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANISTS AND COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATIENS OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servants

Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany, Annie Elizabeth “Bessie” Delany, and Hubert Thomas Delany,

to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory of your Name,

through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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