Augustus Granville Dill (1881 - 1956)
African American Augustus Granville Dill was a sociologist, publisher, musician, and an important behind-the-scenes activist for civil rights and human dignity. The Harvard graduate (class of 1908) came of age during the “Jim Crow” period, when racism was the law of the land.
At his other alma mater, Atlanta University, he collaborated (in his own words) “as student and co-laborer” with the scholar and civil rights leader W. E. B. Dubois. In an autobiographical sketch Dill wrote: “As Associate Professor and head of that department, it was my task and my pleasure to conduct, in connection with Dr. DuBois, the sociological investigations in the study of the various problems connected with the life among Negro Americans.” Jointly edited by Dubois and Dill, the publications resulting from the research included The College Bred Negro American (1910), The Common School and the Negro American (1911), and The Negro American Artisan (1912). In their fourth collaborative investigation, Morals and Manners among Negro Americans (1913), the preface states that such detailed studies were a “logical starting place for [social] reform and uplift.” Also, the men co-published the short-lived children's magazine The Brownies' Book (1920-1921) in whose pages young African Americans could find culturally affirming stories about members of their own race, counteracting mainstream racist portrayals of blacks.
Dubois co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1913 he convinced Dill to leave his position as Associate Professor of Sociology in Atlanta and move to New York City to become the business manager of the NAACP's official magazine, The Crisis. (That publication has been called “the most influential voice of black protest” in the early 20th-century.) Dubois acknowledged that his protégé “gave to the work his utmost devotion and to him was due much of its phenomenal business success.” In 1921, Dill made the New York Times. It quoted him as rejecting as “foolish” any “talk about industrial or political democracy so long as you ignore the 12,000,000 Negroes in the United States.”
Dill held his post at The Crisis until 1928 when he was arrested for homosexual activity in a public restroom. At the time, sex between men was illegal whether it happened in public venues, privately in hotel rooms (where vice-squad detectives were known to spy on and harshly punish same-sex intimacy ), or at home. As a result of the arrest, Dill was forced to resign his position. Later, in his autobiography, Dubois wrote: “I had before that time no conception of homosexuality. I had never understood the tragedy of an Oscar Wilde. I dismissed my co-worker [Augustus Dill] forthwith, and spent heavy days regretting my act.”
Afterwards, Dill supported himself as a pianist and by operating a bookstore.
1. “Augustus Granville Dill,” in Secretary's Second Report: Harvard College Class of 1908 (1914), 93, http://books.google.com/books?id=PsknAAAAYAAJ&q=dill#v=snippet&q=dill&f=false.
2. Secretary's, 93.
3. Secretary's, 93.
4 Secretary's, 93.
5. W. E. Burghardt Dubois and Augustus Granville Dill, ed., Morals and Manners Among Negro Americans: Report of a Social Study Made by Atlanta University . . ., The Atlanta University Publications, no. 18 (Atlanta: Atlanta University, 1914), .
6. “Brownies' Book,” Duboisopedia, http://www.library.umass.edu/spcoll/duboisopedia/doku.php?id=about:brownies_book.
7. “Crisis,” Duboisopedia, http://www.library.umass.edu/spcoll/duboisopedia/doku.php?id=about:crisis.
8. Dennis Gouws, “Dill, Augustus Granville,” in Harlem Renaissance Lives, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University, 2009), 159, http://books.google.com/books?id=E_vRLcgEdGoC&q=dill#v=snippet&q=dill&f=false.
9. Gouws, 159.
10. George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940 (New York: Basic, 1994), 185.
11. [W. E. B. Dubois,] The Autobiography of W. E. B. Dubois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century (N.p.: International, 1968), 282.