Leslie Pinckney Hill


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(1880–1960), educator and poet.

Reflecting the fundamental goals of the New Negro movement, Leslie Pinckney Hill devoted his professional life to the pursuit of “freedom, justice, and fundamental equality,” in short, full citizenship for the African American. After receiving his elementary education in the town of his birth, Lynchburg, Virginia, and his secondary education in East Orange, New Jersey, Hill attended Harvard University, where he earned his BA (1903) and MA (1904) degrees, and began to pursue politics through education. In 1904 Hill began his career in education at Tuskegee Institute, teaching English and education under Booker T. Washington. He was subsequently appointed principal at the Manassas Industrial Institute in Manassas, Virginia, from 1907 to 1913. In 1913 Hill began his thirty-eight-year administration of the Institute for Colored Youth, which, through his leadership, became Cheyney Training School for Teachers (1914), State Normal School (1920), and Cheyney State Teachers College (1951).

Though Hill emphasizes education as the key to racial progress, his essay “What the Negro Wants and How to Get It: The Inward Power of the Masses” articulates the philosophy that informs his educational models and artistic works. That “the human family is one” for Hill summarizes his vision of universal brotherhood, a vision that ultimately negates racial difference in celebration of transcendent commonalities.

Hill's two artistic publications, The Wings of Oppression (1921), a collection of sixty-nine poems in standard verse, and Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Dramatic History (1928), a dramatic portrait in verse, reveal his didactic leanings and his commitment to universalities. His collection reviews racial, political, and deeply personal themes, all pointing toward the perpetual resilience of the human spirit. Likewise, Hill's drama celebrates Toussaint L'Ouverture's heroism and that of black Haitians, while lamenting L’Ouverture's tragic betrayal and demise. Although little known, Hill's works and career effectively illustrate the unequivocal New Negro claim to full participation in American political, social, and intellectual life.

Milton M. James, “Leslie Pinckney Hill,” Negro History Bulletin 24 (Mar. 1937): 135–137.Patsy B. Perry, “Leslie Pinckney Hill,” in DLB, vol. 51, Afro-American Writers from the Harlem Renaissance to 1940, ed. Trudier Harris, 1987, pp. 101–105.

Mark A. Sanders

Subjects: Literature.

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