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For the Common GoodA New History of Higher Education in America$
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Charles Dorn

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780801452345

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801452345.001.0001

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“The Burden of his Ambition is to Achieve a Distinguished Career”

“The Burden of his Ambition is to Achieve a Distinguished Career”

African American Higher Education in the Mid-Atlantic

(p.151) 8 “The Burden of his Ambition is to Achieve a Distinguished Career”
For the Common Good

Charles Dorn

Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses on African American higher education. In 1930, the Howard University Board of Trustees bestowed an honorary degree on acclaimed African American scholar W.E.B. DuBois. In delivering that year's commencement address, DuBois criticized the black students' zeal to use higher education to benefit themselves by entering “into a few well-paid professions.” Similarly, Howard University alumnus, faculty member, and dean Kelly Miller scolded students for adopting what he called “the mercenary motive” in seeking higher education solely for the purpose of achieving personal success. In contrast with alumni who fulfilled their obligations to serve others in the decades following the Civil War, according to Miller, black college graduates in the early twentieth century were seduced by commercialism. Scholars have attributed the perceived shift in African American college student aspirations partly to changes resulting from the influence of Northern philanthropists on black higher-education institutions.

Keywords:   African American higher education, Howard University, W.E.B. DuBois, black students, Kelly Miller, personal success, black college graduates, commercialism

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