The Columbian League: The Life of George Edmund Haynes and the National Urban League

The National Urban League is the oldest and largest community-based, non-partisan, civil rights organization advocating on behalf of African Americans and against racial discrimination in the United States. One of its founders, George Edmund Haynes, created the League's precursor committee and organization at the New York School of Philanthropy (now the Columbia School of Social Work) where he was taking a minor to complete his Ph.D at Columbia University. Haynes was the first African American to earn a doctorate degree at Columbia and published his dissertation, "The Negro at Work in New York City" with Columbia University Press. 

This exhibit follows the semi-chronological structure of Haynes's early life, his enrollment in Columbia and the New York School of Philanthropy, and his co-founding of the National Urban League. This study attempts to resurface Haynes's relatively underreported life and contributions to civil rights, as well as to delineate the connections between Columbia University, the early forms of Columbia's School of Social Work, and the formation and early efforts of the National Urban League. 

Ultimately, this exhibit demonstrates that the philanthropic and sociological skills Haynes learned at Columbia and the School of Philanthropy pushed him to establish an organization that used sociological research to train black social workers and effectively address the issues facing African Americans through interracial cooperation since the beginning of the Great Migration. 

Due to time constraints and a lack of available resources, this study resembles much more of an overview than an in depth analysis of Haynes's connections to Columbia. You will find special collections and resources in the "Sources and Suggested Readings" section of this exhibit that will point scholars toward documents and manuscripts that were geographically out of reach for this project.

Further research is necessary to understand Columbia's relationship to the National Urban League not only for personal interest, but to bolster the respect due to Haynes and his colleagues by Columbia University, especially the School of Social Work. Students and activists should at least be aware of Haynes's attendence at the University and understand how he used the skills he learned as a foundation for his work in civil rights. Other recommendations may include the renaming of certain facilities to honor Haynes, the establishment of a scholarship in his name, or any other tangible recognition of his groundbreaking work. 


Teddy Ostrow