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James Egert Allen papers

Identifier: 010

Scope and Contents

The James Egert Allen papers occupy 18.1 linear feet of material about Allen's life as an educator, community activist and civil rights advocate. Having been a resident of Manhattan for over a half century, much of Allen's collection reflects his educational and community involvements in New York.

The collection is arranged into six groups of materials that include correspondence, greeting cards, telegrams, invitations, programs, photographs, reports, minutes, recreation and travel material, writings by Allen, collected publications and printed ephemera, scrapbooks and clippings. The bulk of the papers are organizational materials relating to Allen's involvement in the YMCA, the NAACP, and as a District School Community Coordinator for the Board of Education for New York. The main strength of the collection is the celebration of African American cultural identity through the education of both children and adults alike.


  • Created: 1917-1976
  • Other: Date acquired: 06/01/1974


Conditions Governing Access

The James Egert Allen papers are open and available for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright to these papers has not been assigned to the Amistad Research Center. It is the responsibility of an author to secure permission for publication from the holder of the copyright to any material contained in this collection.

Historical Note

Dr. James Egert Allen, educator, community advocate, civil rights activist, and author was an active promoter of African American studies in New York. He was the first president of the New York City Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1933-1938), a longtime public school teacher in New York (1926-1946), and the author of three books--The Negro in New York (1964), Black History: Past and Present (1971) and The Legend of Arthur A. Schomburg (1975).

Allen, son of Rev. Edward W. and Cillia L. (nee Henry), was born October 11, 1896, in Greenwood, South Carolina. After his early education in the public schools of Columbia, South Carolina, Allen attended Johnson C. Smith University (formerly Biddle University) in Charlotte, North Carolina where he earned his bachelor's of liberal arts on June 10, 1916. From 1916 to 1919, Allen taught in the public schools system in Arkansas, South Carolina, and Mississippi.

Shortly after graduating, Allen enrolled in graduate classes at Columbia University in New York. During summer school at Columbia in 1921, Allen witnessed a parade sponsored by Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association, and while a student, Allen learned more about Garvey's movement, its objectives, and the interest it uncovered in New York City. Allen said that the movement was one of the earliest signs of the interest of African Americans in their own story, contribution and history. He believed that African Americans were now determined to "achieve a place in the sun." In 1922, he moved to New York and began a career as a teacher and administrator in the public schools. He first taught at what became Frederick Douglass Junior High School.

Allen completed graduate studies in the fields of English, History, Political Science, Sociology, Education and Human Relations at the City College of New York (1928-1934), Syracuse University (1946), Columbia University (1951), Boston University (1954), and the New School of Social Research. He also received his master's and doctorate in education from New York University (1954, 1957), an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) from Johnson C. Smith University (1950) and a certificate from Oxford University in England (1953).

Allen was involved in both educational and community relations in New York and took the lead in the reestablishment of the New York City Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1933. He was elected as its first president from 1933-1938; and also served as the first president of the New York State Conference of the NAACP from 1937-1952. During his tenure, he helped establish chapters of the association throughout the state.

Allen also made contributions to a large variety of community activities involving youth as a member of the board of managers and chairman of the Boy's Work Division at the Harlem Branch of the YMCA (1932-1957); a member of the State Executive Committee of the YMCA (1946-1957) and a member of the National Council of the YMCA of the United States and Canada (1948-1957). He was also elected as a delegate to the World Centennial of the YMCA in Paris, France, in 1955. He was involved in the Boy Scouts of America as a district commissioner (1941-1942) and received the Scouts Silver Beaver Award for Distinguished Service to Boyhood in 1944.

Allen took an active role in local school issues and the development of an African American history curriculum. In 1946, he started as the District School Community Relations Counselor for the Board of Education of the City of New York. In this position, Allen's goals were to improve the relations between school and community, decrease tension between racial groups, and to investigate problems affecting the welfare of children and teachers. He taught teachers how to incorporate information about minority groups in their teaching in order to develop a greater awareness of intergroup relations in students. He was also a major promoter for Negro History Week, a seven-day February celebration of African American accomplishments which later expanded into Black History Month in 1976.

Allen served on many boards and organizations during his lifetime, including Johnson C. Smith University, where he was a trustee and chairman (1947-1973); the New York Branch of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), now known as the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)(1937-1957); the John Brown Memorial Association (chapter president 1940-1944); the New York State Citizen's Council; the New York State Americans for Democratic Action; and the Frederick Douglass Chapter of John Brown Memorial Association.

Allen was a lifetime member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and was the associate editor of its national journal (1937-1967). He was a columnist for the Amsterdam News (1969-1971) on African American history. He was the author of the books The Negro in New York (1964), Black History: Past and Present (1971) and The Legend of Arthur A. Schomburg (1975). He was married to a podiatrist, Dr. Alma Mary Haskins (1922-1957), and Ethel Starke DePass (1961-1980).

Dr. Allen died May 6, 1980


18.30 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

The papers of James Egert Allen contain correspondence, organizational records, writings and collected items. The collection is organized into six series: Correspondence and Other Materials (1917-1973); Recreational Materials (1923-1973); Writings by James Egert Allen (1925-1965); Organizational Materials (1922-1973); Collected Publications, Printed Ephemera and Newspaper Clippings (1925-1973); and Oversize Materials (1946-1971).

Source of Acquisition

Dr. James Egert Allen

Method of Acquisition


Existence and Location of Originals

Originals of the NAACP branch files for New York City (Manhattan), 1915-1940 and the NAACP New York State Conference, 1936-1939 are held by the Library of Congress.

Related Materials

A listing of the microfilm listing for the NAACP Branch files for New York City (Manhattan), 1915-1940 are available at the link below.

Processing Information

This collection was processed from August 2009 to March 2010.

James Egert Allen papers
Amber L. Moore and Nika B. Carter
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Amistad Research Center Repository

6823 Saint Charles Avenue
Tilton Hall, Tulane University
New Orleans LA 70118 US
(504) 862-3222