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318 Elmer L. Andersen Library, University of Minnesota, 222 21st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455

An Inventory of Its Records

Historical Sketch | Contents Summary/Organization | Administrative/Access Info | Contents Details | Related Materials | Indexed Terms/Access Points


Creator: National Council of the Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States of America. Colored Work Department.
Title: Colored Work Department records.
Date: 1871-1946.
Collection Number: Y.USA.1
Abstract: Reports, correspondence, publications, and other records of the Colored Work Department and predecessor programs, established as avenues for African American participation in and service to the YMCA.
Quantity: 5.2 linear feet (12 boxes and 1 oversize folder).
Location: See Detailed Description section for box listing.


YMCA work with and by blacks began in 1853 when Anthony Bowen established the first "colored" association in Washington D.C. As Anthony Bowen's work in the 1850s indicates, African Americans embraced the YMCA early on. In the YMCA, black leaders saw not only a means of providing a wholesome, Christian, environment for young men, but through educational and leadership opportunities, a means for racial advancement.

Social and financial conditions for black people made it difficult for the movement to grow very quickly. Nevertheless, by the late 1860s, the YMCA found a firm foothold in the community with associations established in New York City, Philadelphia, Charleston, S.C., and Harrisburg, Pa. In 1867, E. V. C. Eato of New York City became the first black delegate to attend the YMCA's annual convention. There were 36 black associations (two-thirds of which were in black academic institutions) in 1890 when a national Colored Work Department was created under the leadership of William Hunton. Jesse Moorland and Channing Tobias later succeeded him as senior secretaries of the department.

In 1910, the black YMCA movement was given a boost when philanthropist Julius Rosenwald offered financial help to black communities wanting to build YMCAs. Black leaders in 24 cities took advantage of the offer and constructed buildings in the 1910s and 1920s. The black work program suffered some financial difficulties during the depression, but the number of local associations decreased only slightly, and by 1945, the last year that African American associations were reported as a separate category, the YMCA listed a total of 84.

Although there were calls for an end to discrimination against blacks in the American YMCA movement almost from its beginnings, it was not until the 1920s that the effort really gained momentum. During World War I, the YMCA sent workers to France to provide relief to soldiers. This work was carried out on a segregated basis, with both black men and women serving black army units both in the U.S. and in France. Postwar concerns in the United States that returning black soldiers would rebel against the Jim Crow system led to the YMCAs participating in a Commission on Interracial Cooperation which operated throughout the 1920s in an attempt to ease racial tensions, but despite a growing recognition that change was inevitable, real progress was slow to come. With the rise of Hitler during the 1930s and 1940s came embarrassing comparisons between segregation in the United States and anti-Semitism in Germany. There were increasingly vocal protests from African American World War I and II veterans no longer willing to fight the Nazi regime and its theory of a superior race in Europe and remain content to live with policies supporting the same theory in their own land. The growing realization that racial discrimination was incompatible with the YMCA's Christian ideals forced a reexamination of the YMCA's Jim Crow policies despite fears that desegregation would split the organization.

Segregation of YMCAs as a national policy ended in 1946 when the National Council passed a resolution calling for local associations to "work steadfastly toward the goal of eliminating all racial discriminations," dissolved the Colored Work Department and the abolished racial designations in all its publications. Thereafter, the YMCA continued to work towards the promotion of interracial policies within the YMCA and to provide support and services to the African American community under the auspices of various commissions and committees.


The records include reports on national policy concerning fundraising, personnel, and programming; these materials also include correspondence of the senior department secretary and his staff, documenting their efforts to promote the development of the YMCA movement in black communities around the country. A collection of speeches covers many aspects of the department. Of particular note are speeches by William Hunton on the growth and prospects of the department and by Booker T. Washington on the Y's student work. Monthly reports of national secretaries (1901-1946) are one the largest series of departmental records in the collection and cover topics such as meetings attended, establishing associations and branches, fundraising, and staffing. Secretarial newsletters (1902-1929) cover similar topics. There are also reports on social conditions in various cities where the YMCA was considering expanding, and a series of correspondence and reports concerning conditions and experiences of African American soldiers during World War I.

The collection also includes correspondence, reports, newsletters, and other promotional materials from black YMCAs around the country. Local promotional materials include handbills, event programs, pamphlets, and newsletters from various associations, including Harlem, New York, Lynchburg, Virginia, and Toledo, Ohio.

A series of subject files includes material on other YMCA departments and outside organizations with which the YMCA Colored Men's Department worked. Among the best documented of these organizations is the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, a group founded by YMCA officials and church ministers to address racial tensions following the return of African American World War I veterans.


These documents are organized into the following sections:
Background Information
Correspondence, Reports, and Minutes
Speeches, Articles, Pamphlets, and Newsletters
Financial Records
Local Black Association Records
Subject Files


Use of Materials:
This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.
Preferred Citation:
[Indicate the cited item and/or series here]. Colored Work Department Records. Kautz Family YMCA Archives. University of Minnesota.
See the Chicago Manual of Style for additional examples.
Processing Information:
Catalog Record ID number: 3744036
Processed by: David Carmichael; Jessica Dagen and Lara Friedman~Shedlov, 2003.
Material was substantially rearranged and reboxed in 2003. Post-1946 records which were formerly interfiled with Colored Work Department records have been separately cataloged as Interracial Program records.


Background Material

1 Provenance materials, ca. 1970, 1974.
List of newspapers published by Black YMCAs from the 1890s to the 1960s, ca. 1970.

Correspondence, Reports, and Minutes

1 Reports on local conditions, 1907-1950.
Policy correspondence, reports, and publications, 1891-1940. 9 folders.
Correspondence of the senior department secretary and his staff and reports on the status and progress of work with African American men around the country.
2 Policy correspondence, reports, and publications, 1941-1946. 2 folders.
World War I:
Material consists primarily of letters to Jesse Moorland from soldiers and YMCA secretaries in France, mostly concerning the journey to France via ship and living arrangements in France.
2 Correspondence and reports, 1918-1920, 1941.
Correspondence with soldiers and secretaries in France, 1918-1919. 2 folders.
Minutes: Colored Men's Department Committee, 1914-1946. 2 folders.
Secretaries' reports, 1901-1925. 7 folders.
Includes reports of Colored Work Department secretaries William A. Hunton, Jesse E. Moorland, George E. Haynes, Channing H. Tobias, and others on their efforts around the country.
3 Secretaries' reports, 1928-1933. 12 folders.
4 Secretaries' reports, 1934-1946. 3 folders.
Miscellaneous reports, 1919-1928.


4 National conference materials, 1871-1946. 9 folders.
5 State and miscellaneous conference materials, 1870-1949.
Student conference materials, undated and 1890-1928.

Speeches, Articles, Pamphlets, and Newsletters

5 Speeches and articles, 1893-1944. 3 folders.
News clippings and articles, 1890-1945. 2 folders.
Pamphlets, 1894-1915, 1944.
6 The Messenger, November 1896 - April 1897. 2 folders.
Secretarial Letter, 1902, 1906-1915. 4 folders.
Secretarial Letter, 1902, 1906-1915. 3 folders.
Originals. Please use photocopies if possible.
Secretarial Letter, 1923-1927. 1 volume.
Secretarial Letter, 1923-1928. 2 folders.
7 Secretarial Letter, 1929-1937. 2 folders.
Issues are missing; for the years 1933-1937, includes laymen's conference special issue only.
13 The Student Association News-Letter, vol. 3 no. 24 - vol. 4 no. 40, 1926-1928. 2 folders.
Masthead reads, "Published monthly throughout the school-year by the Student Division of the Colored Men's Department of the National Council of the YMCA, cooperating with the Southeastern and Southwestern Student Field Councils."
The Intercollegian News-Letter, vol. 4, no. 41-44. 1928.
Continuation of "The Student Association News-Letter." New masthead identifies it as "a National News-Sheet for Student Association Workers in Negro schools and colleges of the United States. Published and edited monthly except July and August by the Kings Mountain and Tougaloo Field Councils of the National Student Council in cooperation with the National Council of the Young Men's Christian Associations."
The Intercollegian News-Letter, vol. 1, no. 1 - vol. 5, no. 1, 1928-1931.

Financial Records

7 Correspondence, statements, and reports, 1905-1947. 4 folders.
Davison Fund: Correspondence, 1937-1943.
Rosenwald Fund: Correspondence, 1930-1945. 2 folders.
Rosenwald Fund reports, 1936, 1944.
Includes two reports, one reviewing the years 1917-1936 and the other for the period 1942-1944.

Local Black Association Records

12 Lynchburg Counselor (Lynchburg, Virg. YMCA newsletter), 1891-1892. 1 oversize folder.
8 Local promotional materials, 1888-1939, 1942-1943, 1946. 5 folders.
Includes brochures, pamphlets, membership applications, newsletters, programs, and other materials documenting the activities of the following African American YMCAs: Norfolk, Virginia; Senate Avenue Branch, Indianapolis, Indiana; Peterburg, Virginia; Jacksonville, Tennessee; Spring Street Branch, Columbus, Ohio; West Federal Street Branch, Youngstown, Ohio; 135th Street Branch, Harlem, New York; Hunton Branch, Roanoke, Virginia; Indiana Avenue Branch, Toledo, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; Pine Street Branch, St. Louis, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; Forster Street Branch, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Kansas City, Missouri; Michigan Avenue Branch, Buffalo, New York; Christian Street Branch, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; St. Antoine Branch, Detroit, Michigan; Carlton Avenue Branch, Brooklyn, New York; Lockland Branch, Cincinnati, Ohio; Princeton, New Jersey; Cedar Avenue Branch, Cleveland, Ohio; Phyllis Wheatley Branch, Cleveland, Ohio; Glenarm Branch, Colorado[?]; Houston, Texas; Moorland Branch, Dallas, Texas; George Washington Carver Branch, Little Rock, Arkansas; Leigh Street Branch, Richmond, Virginia; Rittenhouse Street Branch, Germantown, Pennsylvania; Butler Street YMCA, Atlanta, Georgia; James A. Henry Street Branch, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Cansler Branch, Knoxville, Tennessee; Jersey City, New Jersey; Centre Avenue Branch, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Parkside Community Branch, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Correspondence and reports from local associations: A-P, 1910-1945. 5 folders.
Materials are arranged alphabetically by state. The materials consist primarily of correspondence (primarily from the files of Channing Tobias) between local black YMCA secretaries and the staff of the Colored Work Department concerning local conditions and issues, fundraising, and other matters.
9 Correspondence and reports from local associations: S-V, 1910-1945. 4 folders.

Subject Files

9 Boys work: Correspondence and reports, 1917-1939. 2 folders.
Commission on Interracial Cooperation:
The Commission on Interracial Cooperation was founded in 1919 by white YMCA officials and ministers in Atlanta, Georgia concerned about racial tensions following the return of African American soldiers from service in World War I. It eventually established local committees in many southern states and cities. Although a separate organization, the Commission was funded in large part by the YMCA until 1922, and in part until 1930.
The office of origin of these records is not clear but many appear to have belonged in the files of members of the Committee such as J.J. Eagan and R.H. King. Early records report on the committee emerging from the War Work Committee. There are also reports on its annual meetings, its organizational structure, and legislation on racial matters Also included is a 59-page report written in 1949 by Willis Weatherford on the history of YMCA work with black people and the history of the Interracial Committee.
9 Reports and background information, 1919-1927, 1949.
Minutes, 17 July 1919-17 November 1920. 3 folders.
10 Financial records, 1921-1922.
Includes proposed budgets, as well as receipts and disbursements.
Publications, undated and 1923-1943.
Includes a variety of titles attempting to educate the white public on black people.
Local reports, Alabama - Virginia, 1919-1923. 4 folders.
Reports to the Commission on the racial situation and the progress of interracial work in various southern cities, arranged alphabetically by state.
Miscellaneous correspondence and reports, 1919-1928.
Conference on the Christian Way of Life. Interracial Commission, 1924-1925.
Minutes and reports of an organization originally formed by the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America.
Conference on Education and Race Relations, 1933-1941.
Publications of a group, organized at Peabody College in 1931, composed of southern educators who wanted to promote an educational approach to addressing the South's problems with race relations.
Fiftieth anniversary celebration; "Into the Light: With the Youth of a Race," 1938.
Celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the hiring of William A. Hunton as the first full-time, paid, black YMCA secretary.
Semi-Centennial Celebration of Colored YMCAs:
11 Reports and correspondence, 1937-1941. 2 folders.
Executive committee minutes, 1937-1940.
Student Work Department, undated and 1927-1932. 2 folders.
Memoranda and reports concerning relations with the Student Work Department, particularly the status of YMCAs at black academic institutions and how they would be supervised from the national level.
USO, 1941-1942. 2 folders.
Channing Tobias correspondence on USO facilities and services for black service men.
World's Fair, 1940.
Materials concerning "Negro Week" at the New York Worlds Fair, including Channing Tobias's correspondence, as well as programs, reports, and a list of members of the Negro Participation Committee.
Youthbuilders, 1942-1944.
Includes reports on Youthbuilders summer school project (1943) and relations between black and white students in New York public schools. Also includes Channing Tobias's correspondence with Sarah Holbrook (executive director of Youthbuilders) concerning Red Cross policies on segregation of donated blood.


The following related materials are separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives:
Interracial Programs records, 1947-1980: Records describing the YMCA's work with the African American community and its work in interracial issues after 1946.
Leo B. Marsh papers, 1944-1969: Papers of a prominent black leader in the YMCA movement who served as director of YMCAs in Toledo and Columbus, Ohio, association executive secretary of the Central Atlantic Area, and assistant executive director of the National Board.
Channing H. Tobias papers, 1882-1960: Papers of a prominent black leader in the YMCA movement who served as senior secretary of the Colored Work Department from 1923 to 1946.
Biographical files: The YMCA Archives' series of biographical files include biographical sketches, newspaper clippings, and small collections of the personal papers of numerous leaders and individuals involved in the black YMCA movement, including Leo Marsh, Channing Tobias, and Julius Rosenwald.
Student Work records: Includes records documenting the YMCAs established at historically black colleges and universities.
Armed Services Records: The City USO Histories series includes histories of black USOs around the country.
Mjagkij, Nina. Light in the Darkness: African Americans and the YMCA, 1852-1946.


This collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the University of Minnesota Libraries. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.
African American soldiers -- France.
African Americans -- Segregation.
African Americans -- Social conditions.
Church work with students.
Race relations -- Religious aspects.
Social work with African Americans.
World War, 1914-1918 -- African Americans.
World War, 1914-1918 -- War work -- Young Men's Christian Associations.
Young Men's Christian Associations -- Administration.
Young Men's Christian Associations -- Finance.
Hunton, William Alphaeus, 1863-1916.
Moorland, Jesse Edward, 1863-1940.
Rosenwald, Julius, 1862-1932.
Tobias, Channing H., 1882-1961.
Washington, Booker T., 1856-1915.
Commission on Interracial Cooperation.
Julius Rosenwald Fund.
National Conference on the Christian Way of Life (U.S.). Interracial Commission.
United Service Organizations (U.S.).
Young Men's Christian Association (Lynchburg, Va.).
Youthbuilders, Inc. (New York, N.Y.).