Lugenia Burns Hope (1871-1947)
Lugenia Burns Hope was an early-twentieth-century social activist, reformer, and community organizer. Spending most of her career in Atlanta, she worked for the improvement of black communities through traditional social work, community health campaigns, and political pressure for better education and infrastructure.
In 1893 she met John Hope, a student at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The couple married in 1897 and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where Hope worked in the community, teaching crafts and physical education, while her husband taught at Roger Williams University. The Hopes eventually had two sons, John and Edward. In 1898 the couple moved to Atlanta, and John Hope began teaching at Atlanta Baptist College (later Morehouse College), becoming the school's president in 1906.
Social Activism and Community Organizing
Under Hope's leadership from 1908 to 1935, the Neighborhood Union carried out health education campaigns, demanded better conditions at schools, and sponsored arts and recreational activities for youth. In addition, the union "cleaned up" African American districts of undesirable moral characters, which included gamblers and prostitutes. Hope was more radical than her peers. In the era of Booker T. Washington, in which accommodation was more accepted than
During World War I (1917-18) Hope became Special War Work Secretary for the YWCA's War Work Council. She organized services for returning black and Jewish soldiers and oversaw the training of hostess–house workers at Camp Upton in New York. Later on, as African American women became more involved with the YWCA, she challenged the organization's discriminatory practices, calling for black leadership of black branches in the South.
After her husband's death in 1936, Hope moved to New York City. Conflict with the incoming Morehouse president may have played a role in her move. In 1937 she became an assistant to Mary McLeod Bethune, the director of Negro Affairs for the National Youth Administration, a New Deal program. She also continued to work for the NAACP, periodically visiting its headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Over the course of her career Hope was actively involved in a number of other organizations, including the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (in which she advocated for woman suffrage), the Association of Southern Women
For periods at a time she lived with her niece Emma in Chicago, her son John in Nashville, and her other son Edward in Washington, D.C. She died on August 14, 1947, in Nashville, and her ashes were released from the tower of Morehouse College. She was inducted into Georgia Women of Achievement in 1996. Today, John and Lugenia Hope's papers are housed in the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center.
Leroy Davis, A Clashing of the Soul: John Hope and the Dilemma of African American Leadership and Black Higher Education in the Early Twentieth Century (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998).
Jacqueline Anne Rouse, Lugenia Burns Hope: Black Southern Reformer (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989).
Juan Cardoza-Oquendo, University of Georgia
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