Monday, May 30, 2016

from THE EDITOR Dwight Floyd: Summation of Life & Leadership of FAMU's Past Presidents, Series Part 2: Nathan B. Young [1901-1922]

TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- Nathan B. Young was born to Susan Smith, an African American who escaped slavery when Young was just three years old. She settled in a home of her own in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and married Frank Young. Nathan assumed Frank’s surname. Susan was determined that Nathan receive a good education. Nathan Young received a teacher’s diploma from Talladega College before attending Oberlin College earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1888 and a Master of Arts degree in 1891. Late in his career, Talladega College and Selma University would award Young honorary degrees of Doctors of Letters.

In 1892, Booker T. Washington employed Young to teach at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Young stayed at Tuskegee for five years and served as the head of the academic department until conflict developed between Young and Washington over Washington’s emphasis on vocational training. In 1897, Young accepted the position of Director of Teacher Training at Georgia State Industrial College (now Savannah State University). While Young worked at the Georgia State Industrial College he became frustrated with the school’s board of directors’ efforts to limit black education to vocational training. Like FAMU’s first president, Thomas De Saille Tucker, Nathan Young believed in literacy.

At every stop he sought to balance the vocational education programs with liberal arts programs. This continuously placed him at odds with those who sought to limit the education of blacks to vocational training. Even after his days at FAMC, Young faced a similar situation as President of Lincoln University in Missouri. There, his emphasis on literacy led to him being fired, rehired, and not long thereafter resigning in 1931.


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