Dr. George Edmund Haynes (1880 – January 8, 1960) – Social Worker, Reformer, Educator and Co-Founder of the National Urban League.
NOTE: This entry is about Dr. George Edmund Haynes, a co-founder of the National Urban League. Much of the entry was excerpted from the booklet “The National Urban League: 100 years of Empowering Communities” authored by Anne Nixon and produced by The Human Spirit Initiative, an organization with a mission to inspire people to desire to make a difference and then act on it.
The leaders of The Human Spirit Initiative believe that today’s established organizations were new ideas 75-100 years ago and we owe those ideas to their founders. By studying, researching and communicating the details of the lives of these founding leaders within the context of their times, it is possible to create greater understanding of and commitment to strengthening civil society through individual initiative and collective endeavors in building community. For more information on The Human Spirit Initiative and a list of their publications visit: www.human-spirit-initiative.org
Introduction: The National Urban League was established in 1910 through the efforts of George Edmund Haynes and Ruth Standish Baldwin, the Urban League is the nation’s oldest and largest community- based movement devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream. Today, the National Urban League, headquartered in New York City, spearheads the non-partisan efforts of its local affiliates. There are over 100 local affiliates of the National Urban League located in 35 states and the District of Columbia providing direct services to more than 2 million people nationwide through programs, advocacy and research. The mission of the Urban League movement is to enable African Americans to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights. (Source: www.nul.org, July 2006)
Background: The National Urban League was founded in 1910. The Civil War between North and South had ended forty-five years before, but the country was still deeply divided, and most former slaves remained locked in a system of political powerlessness and economic inequality. The new organization set two major goals – remove barriers to racial equality and achieve economic empowerment for the country’s Negro citizens.
Slavery had been abolished in 1865 by the 13th amendment to the United States Constitution. The 14th and 15th amendments went further and guaranteed equal treatment to Negroes and gave Negro men the right to vote. Despite these Constitutional protections, the civil war continued to rage in the hearts and minds of white Southerners. They were resigned to the abolition of slavery but were not willing to accept either social change or political domination by former slaves.
When Congress removed civilian governments in the South and put the former Confederacy under the rule of the U.S. Army, the South resisted violently. Ku Klux Klan groups attempted to restore white supremacy by murder and other forms of mayhem. Black Codes were enacted in the South that severely limited the former slaves’ legal rights and economic options. Some states limited the occupations open to Negroes. None allowed Negroes to vote or provided public funds for their education. In response, the Army conducted new elections in which the freed slaves could vote while those who held leading positions under the Confederacy were denied the vote and could not run for office.
The Army’s intervention in the South ended in 1877. The newly formed legislatures in former slave states quickly adopted Jim Crow laws that again severely limited the civil rights of freed slaves and once more denied them the right to vote. (Note: The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws enacted between 1876 and 1965. They mandated racial segregation in all public facilities, with a “separate but equal” clause for Negro Americans. In reality, this led to treatment and accommodations that were usually inferior to those provided for white Americans, and systematized a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages.) Southern segregation policies were granted legitimacy by the Supreme Court’s “separate but equal” ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson.
The alternatives for former slaves were limited. They could work for white farmers as tenants or sharecroppers, barely a step above slavery, or they could leave the South. Many opted to migrate and moved north to find a better life. Two people stepped forward at this time to provide leadership and help build an organization dedicated to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream – one Negro, one white; one man, one woman – and together, they founded the National Urban League.
Their names were George Edmund Haynes and Ruth Standish Baldwin. Mrs. Baldwin came from a family of early New England colonists with a history of social activism. Her father was the editor of the Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican. A graduate of Smith College, she was the wife of William Henry Baldwin, Jr., president of the Long Island Railroad. She was active in the National League for the Protection of Colored Women (NLPCW) – an organization formed to help protect Negro women new to Northern cities.
George Edmund Haynes, unlike Ruth Standish Baldwin, did not come from a background of privilege. His father was a laborer, and his mother was a domestic servant with great ambitions for her son. When George Haynes completed his elementary education, the family moved from his birthplace in Pine Bluff, Arkansas to the more cosmopolitan community of Hot Springs. At a point in history when educational opportunities for Negroes ranged from limited to nonexistent, George Haynes’ achievements were astonishing. In Hot Springs, he completed the limited educational opportunities available and went on to take high school level courses and college preparatory studies at the Agricultural and Mechanical University in Huntsville, Alabama. He received his bachelor’s degree from Nashville, Tennessee’s Fisk University and then a master’s degree from Yale. Because he was an outstanding student, Yale awarded him an academic scholarship, and he waited tables and stoked furnaces for his room and board.
His varied and distinguished career began immediately after the Yale years. His first job was with the Colored Men’s Department of the International YMCA, where his visits to Negro colleges and universities broadened his horizons. But his academic studies continued, and he added to his reputation as a brilliant scholar. While studying at the University of Chicago during the summers of 1906 and 1907, Dr. Haynes became interested in social problems affecting black migrants from the South. This interest led him to the New York School of Philanthropy, from which he graduated in 1910. Two years later he received a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Columbia University Press published his doctoral dissertation, The Negro at Work in New York City. He had the distinction of being the first Negro to receive a Ph.D. degree from Columbia University.
Within this period, he also involved himself in the activities of the American Association for the Protection of Colored Women, the Committee for Improving the Industrial Conditions of Negroes in New York, and the Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes. Dr. Haynes was a man of many talents with an extraordinary number of professional commitments. In addition to being a co-founder of the National Urban League, he also founded and directed the Department of Social Sciences at Fisk University. At Fisk, his students trained at the Bethlehem Training Center that he had established as part of the Social Science Department. As part of their training, they did field work in existing agencies, and many were assigned to local affiliates of the National Urban League (i.e., Philadelphia, St. Louis, Nashville, Baltimore, Memphis, and Louisville). This model program was repeated at the University of Pittsburgh, Columbia University, and New York University.
Dr. Haynes served as executive director of the National Urban League from 1910 to 1918. He also established the Association of Negro Colleges and Secondary Schools, and served that organization as secretary from 1910 to 1918. He helped the New York School of Philanthropy and NLUCAN in collaborative planning that led to the establishment of the first social work training center for black graduate students at Fisk, and he directed that center from 1910-1918.
From 1918 to 1921, he served as Director of Negro Economics in the United States Department of Labor. As a special assistant to the Secretary of Labor, he was involved in matters of racial conflict in employment, housing, and recreation. He continued his earlier studies of exclusion of black workers from certain trade unions, interracial conditions in the workplace, and child labor. These studies resulted in numerous scholarly works. One of the most significant of these was The Negro at Work During the World War and During Reconstruction. The work’s widespread and profound impact resulted in his appointment as a member of the President’s Unemployment Conference in 1921.
In 1930 Dr. Haynes conducted a survey of the work of the YMCA in South Africa, and in 1947 he managed a similar study of the organization’s activities in other African nations. These efforts resulted in his being chosen as consultant on Africa by the World Committee of YMCAs. His book, Trend of the Races (1922), reflected his belief in the union of all people.
For the last nine years of his life, Dr. Haynes taught at the City College of New York and served as an officer of the American Committee on Africa. Dr. Haynes died in New York City in 1960.
Dr. George Edmund Haynes and Ruth Standish Baldwin have been memorialized with a plaque in the The Extra Mile — Points of Light Volunteer Pathway located on the sidewalks of downtown Washington, D.C. The Extra Mile Pathway is a program of Points of Light Institute, dedicated to inspire, mobilize and equip individuals to volunteer and serve. The Extra Mile was approved by Congress and the District of Columbia. It is funded entirely by private sources.
In 1917, Dr. Haynes made a presentation at the National Conference on Social Welfare on the migration of Negroes to northern cities. It can be viewed on the ERAS section under Civil Rights or linked directly:
The Migration Of Negroes Into Northern Cities: By George E. Haynes, Ph. D., Executive Secretary of the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes
Sources: The Human Spirit Initiative – Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things – For more information about Dr. Haynes and the National Urban League visit: human-spirit-initiative.org
National Urban League: www.nul.org