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THE DIARY OF LORENZO GREENE Introduction AT THE CLOSE OF THE 1930 Negro History Week celebration in Washington, D.C., Lorenzo Johnston Greene confessed to his diary that he had experienced a conversion. He said that the events of the final evening made him "a confirmed and dedicated associate" of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the undisputed father ofAfrican American history. He pledged an even higher commitment to the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, the organization founded by Woodson. "The Association," Greene said, "is indelibly stamped upon me. It is my cause and shall transcend everything else, even my allegiance to Woodson." Greene was the last of a succession of bright young scholars whom Woodson nurtured and converted to the field ofAfrican American history. His Ufe story is one of hardship, struggle, and dedication. Woodson was born in rural Virginia on December 19, 1875, to parents who had been slaves and who struggled to support their nine children by farming. At twenty, he began high school and completed the work in one and a half years. After finishing high school, he entered Berea College in Kentucky, which at that time was still integrated, where all students paid their way by working on campus. In 1912, Woodson became only the second African American to earn a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. The first was W E. B. Du Bois, who received his degree from Harvard in 1895. Woodson devoted his life to correcting misconceptions about the history of black people. On September 9, 1915, he and five other persons founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History). In 1916, he began publishing the Journal ofNegro History; in 1926, he began the celebration of Negro History Week, which has now become African American History Month; and in 1937, he began publishing the Negro History Bulletin. In addition to editing the Journal and the Bulletin, Woodson produced an impressive number of scholarly works. Before the publication of John Hope Franklin's From Slavery to Freedom in 1947, Woodson's The Negro in Our History was the standard general treatment of African American history. At times Greene's dedication to Woodson the man was severely tested; however, he never wavered in his dedication to Woodson the scholar. Moreover, his devotion to the Association remained unshaken over the next almost six decades of his life. The immediate manifestation of this dedication and devotion was the bookselling odyssey Greene undertook to provide needed funds for the Association and to promote the study of The Missouri Review ยท 225 African American history. On June 21, 1930, Greene and three young men who were students at Howard University left Washington in a Model A Ford to sell books published by the Associated Publishers. Their tour took them through Virginia, North Carolina, a little of South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, across the northeastern tip of Mississippi, and into Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. Greene left an account of this journey in a diary he kept in a series of notebooks. This was not ajourney for the timid or the fainthearted. The South ofthe 1930s and, for that matter, of the next four decades, was not a place where four young African American men were expected to travel without encountering serious problems. The black press in 1930 and 1931 headlined lynchings and other acts ofviolence suffered byAfricanAmericans in both the South and the North. In the diary, however, Greene expressed surprisingly few misgivings about encountering racial violence. He did inquire and record information about the climate of race relations at the places they visited. He also left vivid descriptions of the people, geography, and other attributes of the routes they traveled. Greene's diary, however, was much more than a travelogue . Before leaving Washington, he completed proofreading 77ie Negro Wage Earner. Acutely sensitive to economic conditions Ui the South, he became on this journey one of the most knowledgeable scholars about economic conditions among African Americans at the advent of the Great Depression in 1930-1931. When Greene and his fellow booksellers arrived in a town or city...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 125-175
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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