Monroe Nathan Work of Tuskegee Institute, Chronicler of Black History

Monroe NathanOn August 15, 1866, Monroe Nathan Work, one of the most distinguished historians of the African American experience, was born in Iredell County.

Both of Work’s parents had been enslaved and, so with the promise of new horizons outside the South, the family moved to Illinois shortly after he was born. Work attended seminary in Chicago but decided that being a minister wasn’t for him and became a sociologist. While teaching in Georgia, he attracted the attention of Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute.

At Tuskegee, Work found his calling and life’s work. At the height of the Jim Crow era, he dedicated himself to documenting African American life and history and to assisting those seeking social justice.

In 1912, Work began compiling The Negro Yearbook, a sort of almanac with information and statistics on the black experience. Among other endeavors he took care to document lynchings, lending credibility to the anti-lynching movement.

His masterwork was the Bibliography of the Negro in Africa and America, which appeared in 1928 and included 17,000 entries.  That year he received the Harmon Foundation Award for Distinguished Achievement.

Work died at his home in Tuskegee in 1945.

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