The Extraordinary John Hope

The larger plaque on this 19th-century Pratt Street house reads, “Formerly the Crispus Attucks* Center founded in 1929 to provide for the cultural and recreational needs of the Afro-American Community.”  Eight years later the center was renamed to honor Brown alum, educator, and college president, John Hope, who had died the previous year. The Stages of Freedom website a profile of this extraordinary man in the On the Rhode to Freedom section:

. . . the agency was reorganized in 1937 and named the John Hope Community Association in honor of John Hope, an alumnus of Brown University, the first African American President of Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA, and a founder of the NAACP.

The RI Black Heritage Society dedicated the plaque in June of 2013. More details on the building can be found at the John Hope Settlement history, but for more on the man check out a profile at blackpast.org.

Prominent educator and college president John Hope was born on August 2, 1868 in Augusta, Georgia to a bi-racial couple. His father, James Hope, was a Scottish immigrant and his mother, Mary Frances Butts, was a black woman, who had been free prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. The couple lived together as husband and wife, although interracial marriage was prohibited by Georgia law.

This confident couple raised their son to be a confident man who then put his education and intellectual gifts to good use.

In 1906 Hope became the first black President of Morehouse University and then the President of Atlanta University in 1929 when Morehouse merged with it. His presidency at each institution signaled a shift from white-led to black-led institutions. Hope remained President of Atlanta University until his death in 1936.

What an impressive person. (Photo courtesy of Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center.)

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In 1946 the organization moved to its present location at 7 Thomas P. Whitten Way (named for its longest serving director). For more about the John Hope Settlement House go here. They have an early learning center, summer programs for kindergarten through 6th grade, a food pantry, and they have vaccinated nearly 9,000 people!

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*Crispus Attucks was an African American man killed during the Boston Massacre and believed to be the first casualty of the American Revolution.

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