The face in the black-and-white photo, with its wraparound graying sideburns and sober demeanor, evokes a retired Civil War general. William Sanders Scarborough couldn’t have been further from that: an African American, he was born a slave in 1852 Georgia. But he would achieve something perhaps even more extraordinary than a general’s rank.
In an era when many thought blacks unfit for higher education, Scarborough would become one of the country’s leading classicists, author of an acclaimed Greek grammar book that won him speaking engagements and an invitation to Theodore Roosevelt’s White House in the first decade of the 20th century. He wasn’t alone. As a new exhibition at the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground makes clear, Scarborough was one of several black intellectuals who became scholars of classical studies in the Gilded Age and the early 1900s.
Photo portraits of Scarborough and more than two dozen other black classicists will be on view beginning Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, and will remain up through February. The show, previously at BU’s Florence & Chafetz Hillel House, illuminates a little-known episode in the nation’s civil rights struggle. Read The Rest of The Story