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Collection African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection

Kelly Miller

Kelly Miller (1863-1939). Photo courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.


Kelly Miller was a force in the intellectual life of black America for close to half a century. Miller was a mathematician, a sociologist, an essayist, and a newspaper columnist. Born in South Carolina in 1863, he worked his way through Howard University, then did postgraduate work at Johns Hopkins, the first black ever admitted to that university.

Appointed professor of mathematics at Howard in 1890, Miller introduced sociology into the curriculum in 1895, serving as professor of sociology from 1895 to 1934. As dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, he modernized the classical curriculum, strengthening the natural and social sciences.

Miller was a prolific writer whose articles appeared in the major newspapers and magazines of the day. In the 1920s and 1930s, his weekly column appeared in more than 100 newspapers. On African-American education policy, Miller aligned himself with neither the "radicals" -- Du Bois and the Niagara Movement -- nor the "conservatives" -- the followers of Booker T. Washington. Miller sought a middle way, a comprehensive education system that would provide for "symmetrical development" of African-American citizens by offering both vocational and intellectual instruction.