GREGORY, James Monroe
Public and private schools of and La Porte, IN, Chicago, & Cleveland, OH,; college preparatory department, Oberlin College, 1865; A.B. Howard U., 1872
- Professional Experience:
Instr. Latin and mathematics, college preparatory department, Howard U., 1872-6; prof. Latin, 1876-96; principal, Manual and Industrial Training School, Bordentown, NJ, 1896-1914; founder, American Association of Educators of Colored Youth, 1890
Frederick Douglass the Orator. Containing an Account of His Life; His Eminent Public Services; His Brilliant Career as Orator; Selections from His Speeches and Writings (Springfield, MA: Willey & Company, 1893; repr. New York, 19171; Norderstedt, 2018).
James Monroe Gregory was born to free persons of color. After his mother married Henry L. Gregory (c. 1819-1895), the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Among his secondary-school teachers was Laura Spelman (1839-1915), the future wife of John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937). At the college preparatory department at Oberlin College in 1865, he was the only black student in his class. His Latin professor Giles W. Shurtleff (1831-1904), once Lieutenant Colonel of the 5th Regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops, was one of those who recommended him for appointment to West Point, but President Andrew Johnson refused approval. At one point, Gregory met General O. O. Howard (1830-1909) while Gregory was passing through Washington, DC. Several months later, General Howard sent him a letter inviting him to matriculate at the newly founded (1867) Howard University. Gregory graduated as valedictorian in a class of three and began his career in the college preparatory department. In the next year, he married one of his former students, Fannie Emma Hagan (1856-1928), with whom he had four children. In 1876, he was promoted to full professor and served as dean for two years. Throughout the 1880s he was a leading proponent of civil rights activity in the Washington, DC, area, particularly the integration of public schools. In 1885, William Sanders Scarborough (1852-1926) hoped to become Gregory’s colleague after Wiley Lane (1852-1885), the first African American professor of Greek at Howard, died unexpectedly, but the White administration under President William Weston Patton (1821-89) thought otherwise and chose a white man. An uproar ensued (see Grimké).
Gregory’s name is listed in the Proceedings of the APA for the year 1881 as one of the members elected that year, but for some reason, his name is not included with the bona fide members until 1883 (TAPA 12 (1881): 15 and TAPA 14 (1883): iv; xxxiv). In 1890, he founded the American Association of Educators of Colored Youth. In 1893, Gregory published one of the first biographies of Frederick Douglass, whom he had met as a child. Scarborough wrote the book’s introduction. In 1895 the same year that he became principal of the Manual and Industrial Training School in New Jersey he rejoined the APA (TAPA 27 (1896): iii). His son, T. Montgomery Gregory (1887-1971), a member of Harvard’s class of 1910, taught at Howard University from 1912 to 1924 and became a leading figure in the National Negro Theater Movement. Gregory is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“James Monroe Gregory, Professor of Latin at Howard University and Special Agent for the Frederick Douglass Scholarship Fund,” Cleveland Gazette (September 13, 1881) 1; Francis Grimké, “Colored Men as Professors in Colored Institutions,” African Methodist Episcopal Review 2 (1885) 142-8; n.a. “Larph’s Crisp, Bright and Newsy Letter of Interest about Afro-Americans: A Few Points in the Life of Prof. James M. Gregory,” The Historic Times [Kansas] (18 July 1891) 1; David Davidson, producer and director, A Place Out of Time: The Bordentown School (PBS documentary, 2010); Sheila Gregory Thomas, “Gregory, James Monroe,” African American National Biography, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks-Higginbotham. Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t0001/ e2791 (accessed Thu May 03 17: 09: 43 EDT 2018).
- Author: Michele Valerie Ronnick