Black History | Black Brain Trust

Black Brain TrustThe Black Cabinet was first known as the Federal Council of Negro Affairs, an informal group of African-American public policy advisors to United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was supported by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. By mid-1935, there were 45 African Americans working in federal executive departments and New Deal agencies.

Roosevelt’s administration wanted to tend to the increasing needs of African Americans which, in practical terms, had not been met since Reconstruction. African Americans wanted better representation in government, especially as most had been disfranchised across the South at the turn of the 20th century and essentially could not vote there. The administration selected prominent individuals from the African American community to represent the needs of African Americans and appointed them to official positions throughout the government.

Through these efforts, blacks were appointed to positions of responsibility within numerous governmental agencies, the ‘Black Cabinet’ or ‘Black Brain Trust’ – a vocal and eloquent group of highly trained and politically astute African American intellectuals who spearheaded the struggle for civil rights during the 1930s.

Members of the “cabinet” worked officially and unofficially in their agencies to provide insight into the needs of African Americans. In the past, there had never been so many blacks chosen at one time to work together for the African-American community. The 45 primarily comprised an advisory group to the administration.[2] The First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was said to encourage the formation of the Black Cabinet to help shape New Deal programs.

Most members were not politicians but community leaders, scholars and activists, with strong ties to the African American community. Prominent members included Dr. Robert C. Weaver, a young economics expert from Harvard University and a race relations adviser. He worked with the White House to provide more opportunities for African Americans. In 1966 he became the first black cabinet member, appointed by Lyndon B. Johnson as Secretary of the newly created Department of Housing and Urban Development.[4] During the 1970s, Weaver served as the national director of the Municipal Assistance Corporation, which was formed during New York City’s financial crisis. Another prominent member of Roosevelt’s Black Cabinet was Eugene K. Jones, the Executive Secretary of the National Urban League, a major civil rights organization.

 

About SouthernGirl2

A Native Texan who adores baby kittens, loves horses, rodeos, pomegranates, & collect Eagles. Enjoys politics, games shows, & dancing to all types of music. Loves discussing and learning about different cultures. A Phi Theta Kappa lifetime member with a passion for Social & Civil Justice.
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31 Responses to Black History | Black Brain Trust

  1. yahtzeebutterfly says:

    Edgar G. Brown(1898-1954) – Civilian Conservation Corps

    Excerpt from http://www.amistadresearchcenter.org/archon/?p=creators/creator&id=443

    “Edgar George Brown, lobbyist, public relations counselor, and founder of the National Negro Council, twice ran for Congress in Illinois as a Republican. As president of the United Government Employees Union, Edgar G. Brown served in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famed “Black Cabinet.”

    “Born in Sandoval, Illinois, in 1898… Brown attended Northwestern University, which was interrupted by his service in the Army during World War I. After his service, he returned to Northwestern and graduated in economics and business.

    “Upon graduation, he worked as an advertising manager of the Madame C. J. Walker Co. in Indianapolis, as an editor of the Standard News of St. Louis, and as an administrative assistant and editor of the Federal Security Agency in Washington.

    “Edgar Brown transitioned from his journalistic career into employment with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) with some assistance from his brother-in-law, Irvin H. McDuffie, who was President Roosevelt’s personal valet. With the backing of President Roosevelt, Brown gained an administrative position in the CCC, where he served in the publicity section.

    “Although hired primarily to report on activities of African Americans in CCC work camps, Brown also utilized his position to agitate for improved status of African American CCC workers, such as increasing their numbers as camp commanders and medical officers.

    While working as a federal employee, Brown was president of the United Government Employees, a federal workers’ union, from 1934 to 1943. Among his achievements include successfully working toward the elimination of photographs as a requirement in civil service examinations. Brown also worked to secure automatic promotions for federal custodial employees and campaigned successfully for the first language specifically prohibiting racial discrimination in a 1940 civil service law.”

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  2. Ametia says:

    thank you for this

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    • yahtzeebutterfly says:

      You are very welcome, Ametia.

      I have enjoyed researching this area of history that I know so little about…..the info out there is scattered and not in one place….kind of makes it a fun little treasure hunt for me. :)

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  3. yahtzeebutterfly says:

    Dewey Roscoe Jones worked at the “Chicago Defender” newspaper before going to Washington, D.C. to serve as one of FDR’s advisors.

    Excerpt from
    ” Lights and Shadows:
    Dewey Roscoe Jones and the Chicago Defender’s poetic legacy.”

    http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/243478

    Back in the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s, the Defender published verse—and sometimes defiantly political verse—with regularity. In the process, the paper vernacularized poetry, popularized it, made it relevant, and made it news.

    Many writers and editors at the Defender helped to make this happen, but perhaps none more than Dewey R. Jones, the editor of “Lights and Shadows,” which gave scores of amateur poets their first (sometimes only) shot at publication, and offered a public forum for the country’s vibrant but largely marginalized community of black literati.
    *** 
    The column printed a wide range of poems over the course of its history, including some of the earliest work of Gwendolyn Brooks—who would later become the doyenne of Chicago poetry and the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize…..

    ….. Jones’s voice was a consistent thread in the column for many years. He curated poems, prodded frequent contributors to send in new work, asked for suggestions for what to name the office cat, and generally acted as the host of the “Lights and Shadows” party.

    His tenure there ran, on and off, from 1923, when he took over as editor, until sometime in 1935, when he headed to Washington, D.C. to work for Harold L. Ickes, the secretary of the interior, and to serve as an adviser to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his Black Cabinet.

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  4. yahtzeebutterfly says:


    Front row, left to right:
    Dr. Ambrose Caliver, Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Dr. Robert C. Weaver, Joseph H. Evans, Dr. Frank Horne, Mary McLeod Bethune, Lt. Lawrence A. Oxley, Dr. William J. Thompkins, Charles E. Hall, William I. Houston, Ralph E. Mizelle.
    Back row, left to right:
    Dewey R. Jones, Edgar Brown, J. Parker Prescott, Edward H. Lawson, Jr., Arthur Weiseger, Alfred Edgar Smith, Henry A. Hunt, John W. Whitten, Joseph R. Houchins.

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  5. yahtzeebutterfly says:

    William J. Houston was an investigator with the Department of Justice.

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  6. yahtzeebutterfly says:

    Page 297 of “Encyclopedia of African American Business, Volume 1” :

    “During the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the number of records in the Commerce Department relating to black businesses multiplied. The secretary of commerce correspondence for the period 1928 to 1950 includes letters and reports relating to the department’s Negro Advisory Council and the Negro Affairs Section, headed by Charles E. Hall.

    From an article by G. James Fleming in the September 1937 issue of “The Crisis” magazine (with the note “Since this article was written, Mr. Hall has been appointed an advisor of Negro Affairs in the Department of Commerce”) :

    It’s figures, figures everywhere when you step into the office of Charles E. Hall in the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce: figures on the Negro population, on the number of Negro-operated retail stores, on the birthrate of Negroes and whites, on the sex distribution of the race, on illiteracy, on interstate migration, on the condition of the Negro farmer, on Negro prison inmates–on nearly everything you can think of.

    And the man behind the figures is the “senior specialist on Negro statistics,” who for over thirty-seven years has been helping Uncle Sam to keep track of this multitudinous family and his ever-growing business affairs.

    Charles E. Hall got his title from the New Deal, but the work he has been doing has gone on under both Republican and Democratic parties, and his interests and duties are not limited to the Negro. In 1930, he was supervisor of the United States Census of Distribution and Manufacturing for the Eighth (Chicago) District; in 1916 he made a survey in northern industrial centers for the Department of Labor…”

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    • yahtzeebutterfly says:

      “Negroes in the United States, 1920-32” (prepared under the supervision of Z.R. Pettet, Chief Statistician for Agriculture, ) by Charles E. Hall, Specialist in Negro Statistics. Included are sections on: population and growth, geographic distribution and increase, nativity, urbanization, the “black belt,” sex and age distribution, marital conditions, fertility, school attendance and illiteracy, families, occupations, vital statistics (births, infant mortality, mortality), retail business, religious bodies, prisoners, and agriculture.

      It was 845 pages and included maps and graphs.

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  7. yahtzeebutterfly says:

    “Dr. William J. Thompkins
    Physician and Hospital Administrator 1884-1944”

    by David Conrads

    “The son of a former slave, William J. Thompkins had a multi- faceted career as a physician, hospital administrator, newspaper publisher, and civil servant.

    “Thompkins was born in Jefferson City, Missouri. He became acquainted with numerous Missouri politicians while he was going to school and working as a bellboy at the old Madison House Hotel. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Lincoln University in Jefferson City. He later studied at the University of Colorado and at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He served his internship in Washington at the Freedmen Hospital and moved to Kansas City to practice medicine in 1906.

    “A respected physician, Thompkins was involved in the founding of General Hospital No. 2, which opened in 1908, and by 1924 it was the first hospital in the U.S. to be staffed entirely by African Americans. He was the hospital’s superintendent from 1915-1922, the first African American to hold that position. During his tenure the hospital improved from a class D to a class A rating.
    Thompkins was appointed an assistant health commissioner in 1927 and conducted an important survey of tuberculosis and housing conditions among blacks in Kansas City. As a result of his survey, hundreds of houses were condemned, and a new hospital serving African Americans was built. The American Public Health Commission adopted the plan of his survey as a model, and President Hoover presented his housing plan to the National Housing Commission in 1930.

    “In 1928, Thompkins, a staunch Democrat, and Felix Payne, a businessman with connections to the Pendergast machine, started a weekly newspaper serving the black community. The Kansas City American became the Democratic rival of the Chester Franklin’s Republican Kansas City Call. In 1932, Thompkins was named president of the National Colored Democratic Association and helped elect Franklin Roosevelt as president.

    “In appreciation, Roosevelt appointed Thompkins recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia, a position he held from 1934 until his death ten years later.”

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  8. yahtzeebutterfly says:

    Lawrence A. Oxley, Department of Labor

    “Lawrence A. Oxley was born in 1887 in Massachusetts and attended public schools in Boston and Cambridge, also studying at Harvard. He served with the US Army during World War I, earning the rank of lieutenant.

    “In 1934, Oxley was appointed to the US Department of Labor, one of 45 prominent black community leaders selected by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration for positions in the federal government in Washington, DC. Oxley worked on programs to improve employment opportunities for African Americans. In 1937, he published “Government Employment and Negro Youth”, an article encouraging use of the U.S. Employment Services opportunities. By publishing in a widely read journal, Oxley used an existing network to distribute information about government programs.

    “Oxley continued to serve with the federal government until 1957, acting as an advocate for the elderly. His work was an example of combining scholarship and practice. While leading efforts in state and federal government to change approaches to welfare, he published articles and reports about issues in the black community. He was a pioneer in social work and state government’s providing social welfare. He was considered “one of the most influential state welfare leaders of his time’.”

    Excerpt from this article at http://bpdupdateonline.bizland.com/fall2003/id63.html

    Lawrence Augusta Oxley (1887 -1973) Considered one of the most influential state welfare leaders of his time, Lawrence Oxley was a community organizer, mediator and architect of social change all of his life.

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    • yahtzeebutterfly says:

      From the June 1934 issue of Omega Psi Phi “Oracle” :

      “Oxley Named to Important Post”
      Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins has created a division in the Department of Labor in which a race man will act under title of authority as division chief in the department, it was learned from authoritative sources Monday. The new branch will be known as the Division of Negro Labor in the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

      Lieutenant Lawrence A. Oxley, already commission of conciliation, has been assigned by the secretary to head the new division. He will retain the title and authority of the first, while at the same time, assuming the broad powers conferred upon him by the second.

      In the appointment of Lieut. Oxley to this important post, observers see the forerunner of a helpful program in the interests of Negro labor, for apparently it is the first time, they say, that the department has recognized this need.

      At the anthracite and steel hearings some time ago, Secretary Perkins expressed herself as wanting to see colored workers receive equal pay for equal work. What has just taken place confirms the view that she means business. (from the “Pittsburgh Courier”)

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    • yahtzeebutterfly says:

      from http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/irle/ucb/text/lb001304.pdf

      On July 1, 1937, Oxley was transferred to the administrative staff of USES and given the title of Field Representative. His primary duty was to visit State Employment Service offices to advise State and local office staffs about facilitating the placement of black workers. As part of this work, Oxley organized State conferences on the employment problems of black workers to focus attention on the difficulties encountered in their search for adequate, productive, and continuing employment. USES employed a number of black civil servants at this time, and Oxley also handled employment questions that arose from this group.

      In 1939, when USES was transferred to the Social Security Board, Oxley was appointed chief of the Negro Placement Service, Division of Special Services. In spite of the fact that Oxley had various titles from 1934 to 1942, his detailed and numerous files for this period are among the records of the Bureau of Employment Security.

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  9. yahtzeebutterfly says:

    Joseph H. Evans, Farm Security Administration

    From pages 114-115 of Hamilton Cravens’ book entitled “Great Depression: People and Perspectives” :

    “Neither Congress nor President Roosevelt ever entertained the idea of creating a special program for black farmers, so their prospects would rise or fall depending on the success of broad-based programs to assist American farmers in general.

    “In 1937, Congress created the Farm Security Administration (FSA), whose purpose was to prove low-interest loans to farmers. Headed by Will Alexander, this program differed from earlier farm programs in that some of these loans were provided to sharecroppers and tenant farmers, essentially farmers who had not previously purchased land.

    “With the help of Joseph Evans, a black administrative assistant, Alexander, despite the fiscal limitations of this program, attempted to address the wide disparity in land holding between blacks and whites. About 2,000 African Americans received tenant loans and another 1,400 were resettled in community projects where they were given the opportunity to purchase their land over a period of forty years. Many of these families were able to purchase land for the first time, were educated in modern farm techniques, and were introduced to new methods of production and marketing.”

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  10. yahtzeebutterfly says:

    From Wikipedia

    “Robert Clifton Weaver (December 29, 1907 – July 17, 1997) served as the first United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (also known as HUD) from 1966 to 1968. He was the first African American to hold a cabinet-level position in the United States.

    “In 1933, Weaver worked as an aide to United States Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes. Near the beginning of his career, but with a reputation for knowledge about housing issues, the young Weaver was appointed to a position in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration in 1934, becoming one of his Black Cabinet.”

    When the Department of Housing and Urban Development was started in 1965, President Johnson appointed Dr. Weaver to head it:

    “After serving under Johnson, Weaver became president of Baruch College in 1969. The following year, he became a professor of Urban Affairs at Hunter College in New York. He taught there until 1978.”

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  11. yahtzeebutterfly says:

    From an article by “Parkview,DC” (2-23-2012)

    “Roscoe Conkling Brown was born in Washington, D.C. on October 14, 1884, the son of John Robert and Blanche Maguire Brown. He was a graduate of M Street (later Dunbar) High School and received his degree from the College of Dentistry, Howard University, in 1906. He was one of the early dentists showing an interest in the social and public health aspects of dentistry, leading to Brown furthering his knowledge in these areas by attending Columbia and Harvard universities for additional work in statistics, population, and health problems. Dr. Brown received certificates in special studies from these institutions.

    “From 1907 to 1915 Brown practiced dentistry in Richmond, Va., where he also was an instructor in hygiene and sanitation at the Richmond Hospital Training School for Nurses. Dr. Brown retired from private practice in 1915 for a career in public health after travel in the United States and South America for orientation of population groups and health problems. According to a 1961 article in the Baltimore Afro-American, Brown entered the “United States Public Health Service in 1919 and was successively Lecturer and Director of Colored Work, Health Education Specialist and Health Consultant, Chief of the Office of Colored Health Work, Public Health Adviser, and Chief of the Special Programs Branch.”

    “Dr. Brown played a major role in transferring the Office of Negro Health Work to the Special Programs Branch, Division of Health Education of the Public Health Service in 1950. He became the first chief of this new division and continued to give consultative services to black groups in their communities, He retired in 1954 at the age of 70.”

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  12. yahtzeebutterfly says:

    Excerpt from
    http://www.blackpast.org/aah/caliver-ambrose-1894-1962

    Ambrose (1894-1962)Caliver ((1894-1962))was appointed in 1930 by President Herbert Hoover to the new position of Senior Specialist in the Education of Negroes in the U.S. Office of Education.

    He remained in the post when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President two years later and joined FDR’s “Black Cabinet.” In that post Caliver sought to raise national awareness about the disparities in education between blacks and whites, especially in the rural South. He traveled extensively, surveying and documenting the funding failures of public schools.

    During his tenure, his office published numerous articles, bulletins, and pamphlets on a variety of topics relating to African American education, from “The Education of Negro Teachers” to “Secondary Education for Negroes.”

    His office also created “Freedom Peoples,” a nine-part radio series broadcast on NBC that showcased African American history and achievements. Additionally, he convened conferences and implemented committees on these matters. In 1946 Caliver was named director of the Project for Literacy Education. He measured adult illiteracy in the population, helped to create materials suitable for adult literacy education, and trained adult literacy teachers.

    Though adult education had become his passion, Caliver served as an adviser for a number of national and international projects, including the U.S. Displaced Persons Commission (1949) and the United Nations Special Committee on Non-Self-Governing Territories (1950). Caliver died in 1962 in Washington, D.C.

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  13. yahtzeebutterfly says:

    From Wikipedia:
    The Black Cabinet was first known as the Federal Council of Negro Affairs, an informal group of African-American public policy advisors to United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was supported by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. By mid-1935, there were 45 African Americans working in federal executive departments and New Deal agencies.
    The administration selected prominent individuals from the African American community to represent the needs of African Americans and appointed them to official positions throughout the government.

    “Through these efforts, blacks were appointed to positions of responsibility within numerous governmental agencies, the ‘Black Cabinet’ or ‘Black Brain Trust’ – a vocal and eloquent group of highly trained and politically astute African American intellectuals who spearheaded the struggle for civil rights during the 1930s.”

    Members of the “cabinet” worked officially and unofficially in their agencies to provide insight into the needs of African Americans. In the past, there had never been so many blacks chosen at one time to work together for the African-American community. The 45 primarily comprised an advisory group to the administration. The First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was said to encourage the formation of the Black Cabinet to help shape New Deal programs.

    Members of this group in 1938 included the following:

    Dr. Ambrose Caliver, Department of the Interior
    Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Public Health Service
    Dr. Robert C. Weaver, Federal Housing Authority
    Joseph H. Evans, Farm Security Administration
    Mary McLeod Bethune, National Youth Administration
    Lawrence A. Oxley, Department of Labor
    Dr. William J. Thomkins, Recorder of Deeds
    Charles E. Hall, Department of Commerce
    William J. Houston, Department of Justice
    Ralph E. Mizelle, US Postal Service
    Dewey R. Jones, Department of the Interior;
    Edgar G. Brown, Civilian Conservation Corps
    J. Parker Prescott, Housing Authority
    Edward H. Lawson, Jr., Works Projects Administration
    Arthur Weiseger, Department of Labor
    Alfred Edgar Smith, Works Projects;
    Henry A. Hunt, Farm Credit Administration
    John W. Whitten, Works Projects
    Joseph R. Houchins, Department of Commerce

    At various times, others included:
    William H. Hastie attorney, Department of the Interior
    Eugene Kinckle Jones, Department of Commerce
    William J. Trent, Federal Works Agency

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  14. rikyrah says:

    This is underreported Black history

    Liked by 1 person

  15. yahtzeebutterfly says:

    Mary McLeod Bethune was also a member of the Black Brain Trust.


    Published on Aug 6, 2012 by C-SPAN
    The Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial stands in Washington, DC’s Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill. It was sculpted by Robert Berks, and was dedicated in 1974. It honors Ms. Bethune for her role as educator, presidential adviser, and civil rights activist. The sculpture features a representation of a cane given to Bethune by President Franklin Roosevelt, and two children receiving Bethune’s last will and testament.

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  16. yahtzeebutterfly says:


    Uploaded on Sep 25, 2009 by Washington University Film & Media Archive
    In this clip from his interview for The Great Depression, Robert C. Weaver, the first US Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, talks about President Franklin Delano Roosevelts relationship with the bureaucracy and Congress as well as the meaning of the New Deal.

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  17. yahtzeebutterfly says:

    This is an area of Black History I want to learn more about.

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