John Hope’s parents were already breaking the law before his birth in Augusta in 1868. His mother was a free black woman and his father was white. Together they lived openly as husband and wife, daring to defy laws against interracial marriages.
Hope picked up on his parents’ daring. After his father’s death, he dared to think he could attend integrated Brown University in Rhode Island. He dared to become a professor … becoming the first black president of Morehouse College in 1906 and then Atlanta University, now Clark Atlanta University in 1929. Under his leadership, Atlanta University became the first college in the nation to focus on graduate education exclusively for blacks.
But Hope’s reach stretched beyond the classroom. He fought for civil rights, working with the NAACP, the Urban League, and the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools. He held conferred with W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington about how to advance the lives of all black people. Today he’s rightfully credited as one of the founders of the modern-day African-American college education.