• Date of Birth: November 22, 1852
  • Born City: Elizabeth City
  • Born State/Country: NC
  • Parents: Whitmel and Mary L.
  • Date of Death: February 16, 1885
  • Death City: Washington
  • Death State/Country: DC
  • Education:

    Pasquotank Colored Normal School, 1869; College Preparatory Department, Howard University, 1870-1877, summa cum laude; B.A., Amherst College, 1879, Phi Beta Kappa; M.A., Howard University, 1881.

  • Professional Experience:

    Instructor, Normal Department of Howard University, 1881-1880; Principal of the Normal Department, 1881-1882; Professor of Greek Language and Literature, 1883-1885. 

  • Publications:

    Selected Publications:

    “Geoffrey Chaucer,” African Methodist Episcopal Church Review (April, 1886): 369-379; “Destiny of the Negro,” New York Globe (5 July 1884): 2; “James M. Gregory,” New York Globe(19 July 1884): 1 Accounts, August, 1879-1885, Elisha Overton Collection, Elizabeth City State University Archives, Elizabeth City, NC.

    Letter: “A Scholarship Fund,” New York Globe (6 February, 1884):1.

  • Notes:

    Lane was born of free parents in Elizabeth City, NC. Thomas W. Cardozo (1838-1881), principal of the local colored normal school saw promise in him and encouraged him to go on to Howard University where Cardozo’s brother Francis Cardozo (1837-1903) who taught Latin at Howard helped Lane enter the College Preparatory Department. After graduating from Amherst College, he returned to Washington and moved up the ranks there from instructor to professor. In his personal account book he noted the event: “I entered upon duty as Prof. of Greek in Col[lege] Dept. of H[oward U]niversity, Sept. 13, 1883 at a salary of $1,500.” 

    All accounts called him a brilliant, deeply learned student and a charismatic teacher. Describing a lecture Lane gave at a meeting of the Bethel Literary and Historical Association in Washington, D.C. in January of 1881 The People’s Advocate wrote: “Prof. Wiley Lane for an hour or more and without notes entertained the guests with such a rich treat on Greek Art that Frederick Douglass, one of the invited guests in complimen-ting it said that  the society had no right to keep to itself such a gem, but should invite the Professor to give the public the benefit of his Art thoughts.” Lane’s sudden death of pneumonia was a shock to everyone; one writer in the Washington Bee called it “a thunderbolt.”  The papers had also taken note of his plans to study at the American School in Athens which came to naught. William Sanders Scarborough (1852-1926) had also hoped to attend, but it would be John Wesley Gilbert  (1863-1923) who became School’s the first black student. 

              Lane’s funeral services were held in the Howard University Chapel on Wednesday February 18 and officiated by Reverend Stephen Morrell Newman (1845-1924), then pastor of Washington’s First Congregational Church. Eulogies were read by William W. Patton (1821-1889), president of Howard University, Massachusetts Senator George Frisbie Hoar (1826-1904), who had been Lane’s friend for 15 years, and also by Frederick Douglass (1818-1895). A memorial meeting was held on March 3, 1885 at the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church during which a number of his friends and colleagues gathered to speak including Latin professor James Monroe Gregory (1849-1915), and  Lane’s teacher Francis Cardozo. Gregory likened his friendship with Lane to that of Vergil and Horace and being a few years older than Lane said: “I think with Laelius, when speaking after the death of his friend Scipio Africanus: ‘It had been more equitable that as I entered upon life first, I should likewise first depart from it.’” Lane never married and left no descendants, but from his brother, Congregationa-list minister Calvin Lane and wife, Alice Virginia Clark Lane, descends Layle Lane (1893-1976) civil rights activist, American Federation of Teachers union vice president, and quondam political candidate in New York City. He was buried in the Lane family plot in Elizabeth City, NC.

  • Sources:

    n.a., “Professor Wiley Lane Dead,” Cleveland Gazette (21 February 1885): 1; n.a., “Drawing the Color-Line: Howard University Becoming a Close Corporation,” The Freeman [New York] (6 June, 1885): 1; n.a., In Memoriam Professor Wiley Lane of the Howard University, Washington, D.C.(Washington, D.C.: Judd & Detweiler, 1885); n.a., “Louise to Clara,” Washington Bee (21 February, 1885): 2; Leonard R. Ballou, “Thomas W. Cardozo: Unsung Schoolmaster and Politician,unpublished manuscript, Elizabeth City State University Archives, Elizabeth City, NC; Michele Valerie Ronnick, “Wiley Lane (1852-1885),” Classical Outlook 79 (Spring, 2002): 108-109; Jack Schierenbeck, “Lost and Found: The Incredible Life and Times of (Miss) Layle Lane,” American Educator (Winter, 2000-2001): 4-19; 46; R.S. Smith, “A Sketch of the Eventful Life of Prof. Wiley Lane, of Howard University,” Cleveland Gazette (17 January 1885): 1.