William Payne 1906 DU alum, co-founder of African American Community

Alumni

William Payne

William Payne, 1906, was a “gifted teacher and university graduate living in Pasadena, Calif.” when Allen Allensworth, perhaps the first African American chaplain in the U.S. Army, tapped him to help found California’s first wholly African American community, named for Allensworth.

According to an article in history.net:

“Although different in age and temperament, Payne and Allensworth were kindred souls in the struggle to improve their race. Payne, a graduate of Denison University and a West Virginia native, had spent his youth in Corning, Ohio. Before settling in Pasadena in 1906, he had been an assistant principal at the Rendsvile School and a professor at the West Virginia Colored Institute. Arriving in California, however, Payne soon discovered that if black teachers were rare, jobs for them were even rarer.

“Recognizing the need for unusual measures, Allensworth and Payne plotted the creation of an all-black community — a colony of orderly and industrious African Americans who could control their own destiny. The two men believed that in such a community, free of the debilitating effects and limits of racism, blacks could demonstrate that they were capable of organizing and managing their own affairs.

“The soldier and the scholar envisioned a black community that would make opportunities for African-Americans — opportunities being central to the philosophies of both men. They believed that the disappointing status of the race nearly half a century after emancipation was due to circumstance rather than color. Yet most of the country, then imbued with the wisdom of eugenics (the science of selective genetics), believed that blacks were intrinsically inferior and therefore incapable of contributing to the American nation of its road to greatness. White Californians, of course, held this same belief. Payne and Allensworth believed that given the opportunity, blacks could live up to their potential, and in the process, destroy that malicious fallacy. Their colony, they believed, would provide that very opportunity.”

Posted Date 
Monday, February 9, 2015

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