Harper, William Allen

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Connection to Legacies of American Slavery Database
Name
Harper, William Allen
One-line bio
Fourth president of Elon College (1911-1931) who was a proponent of segregated educational settings as a means to maintain White supremacy.
Biography
William A. Harper (1880-1942) of Virginia graduated from Elon College in 1899. After earning a master’s degree from Yale University, he taught Latin and religion at Elon. He served as dean of the college from 1908 until 1911 when he became Elon’s fourth president. In 1910, Harper argued for the role an Elon education could play in the maintenance of White supremacy. Citing widespread alarm among White Americans after boxer Jack Johnson defeated James Jeffries, Harper wrote, “We have no fears for white supremacy from the outcome of this conflict of brawn. But we do have fears for white supremacy for another and better reason,” he warned. “... The history of the world shows that education is essential to race leadership and the negroes are willing to sacrifice for it more than are our whites.” He served as president of the board of control for Franklinton Christian College, the Christian Convention’s North Carolina school for Black people from 1926 to 1929. He supported the school with the goal of inculcating White Christian values so that Black students would not become “astutely selfish and racialistic.” In 1920, Harper led a posse that arrested a Black man on suspicion of rape. Harper agreed to serve as a witness in a hastily assembled same-day capital trial. Before the trial could take place, a second gang of armed White men seized the man from custody and murdered him. In 2020, Elon’s board of trustees voted to remove Harper’s name from a campus residence hall.
Date of Birth
1880
Date of Death
11 May 1942

Position: 201 (8 views)

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