Honorees

November, 2000

Kelly Miller, PhD

Kelly Miller, PhD

Author and Educator

Kelly Miller, PhD was born July 23, 1863, near Winnsboro, South Carolina. His father, Kelly Miller, Sr., was a free African American man and his mother, Elizabeth Roberts Miller, was a slave. He attended Fairfield Institute, a school founded for African Americans by northern Presbyterians. Miller had exceptional skills in mathematics, and, as a result, Fairfield Institute's headmaster asked his parents if he could continue his education rather than join his parents and siblings in working the family farm. His parents agreed. In 1880, Miller left Winnsboro with ten dollars in cash, a train ticket, and a scholarship to Howard University in Washington, DC, all provided by the New England Missionary Society.
 

While a student at Howard University, Kelly Miller took and passed the Civil Service Examination and obtained employment with the U.S. Pension Office. He was able not only to support himself while in school, but also to save enough money to purchase the family farm and present the deed to his parents as a graduation gift. He attended Johns Hopkins University for postgraduate work in mathematics, physics, and astronomy. He later taught mathematics at Washington High School in Washington, DC, before joining the Howard University faculty. He received his Master of Arts degree in 1901, and his Doctorate degree in 1904.

Miller later gained great distinction as Dean of Howard University's College of Arts and Sciences. Dean Miller became a member of the American Negro Academy which was founded in 1897 "to stimulate Negro cultural development as part of a program of racial cooperation and solidarity." As a member of the Academy, Dean Miller became one of the most outspoken and respected defenders of the race against white scholars who sought to substantiate the alleged inherent inferiority of African Americans.

For more than twenty years, Dean Miller wrote a weekly column, "Kelly Miller Speaks," that appeared in over 100 newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Baltimore Sun. He also published five books. Dean Miller became the most prolific and successful African American writer of his time.

Dean Miller's numerous articles were published in the Atlantic Monthly, The Independent, Popular Science, Crisis, Opportunity, The Journal of Negro History, and The Journal of Negro education, to name a few. His texts focused on issues confronting African Americans: social equality, religion, classical versus industrial education, and the continuing need for the moral and educational uplifting of his people.

In 1939 Miller was given a Recognition Award from the Colored Citizens of South Carolina, "for his service as scholar and defender of his race." In 1993, he was inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors.