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Dancy, John C.(1888–1968) - Business executive, community activist, Chronology,  

league urban school detroit

John Campbell Dancy Jr. served as director of the Detroit Urban League in Detroit, Michigan from 1918 to 1960. Using his own brand of personal diplomacy Dancy was able to strengthen and expand the mission of the league to provide needed services and employment opportunities for local African Americans as well as the enormous number of African Americans who were migrating to the city. Dancy’s leadership resulted in employment opportunities that extended outside the servant industry into skilled jobs, which had previously barred blacks. His determination to see his community grow and prosper guided his involvement in organizations that supported and made policy for institutions such as hospitals, correctional institutions, various faith-based organizations, and groups that supported the arts. He also helped establish a summer camp to bring new experiences and learning to underprivileged children. Dancy’s contributions and work in the community were rewarded with numerous awards and accolades. During his retirement in 1960, he was noted as having a more profound impact on race relations in the city of Detroit than any other community leader during that time.

Born April 13, 1888 in Salisbury, North Carolina, to John Campbell Sr. and Laura Coleman, John Campbell Dancy Jr. was welcomed into a well-to-do and educated southern home. The elder Dancy, who was born in slavery, later studied at Howard University Preparatory and held many positions of public trust. These included the positions of typesetter, schoolteacher, newspaper editor, local politician, collector of customs in Wilmington, North Carolina, and recorder of deeds in Washington D.C. The elder Dancy included among his family friends educator Booker T. Washington and politician P. B. S. Pinchback, and it is said he received a personal invitation from President Theodore Roosevelt to attend an important banquet. In this environment young Dancy was made aware of books, the power of influence, and race problems.

Until the age of fifteen, Dancy attended a private elementary and middle school run by Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. At the same time the elder Dancy was teaching printing and publishing at the college. After young Dancy completed his middle school education, his father determined it was time for him to go to school with whites. Young Dancy was subsequently enrolled at the Phillips Exeter Academy, an elite preparatory school in New Hampshire. Although many West Indian planters sent their sons to Exeter, Dancy was the first American black to attend. After graduating from high school, Dancy attended the University of Pennsylvania where he studied sociology. He graduated in 1910.

Chronology

1888

Born in Salisbury, North Carolina on April 13

1903

Completes private elementary and middle school education at Livingston College

1904–06

Attends Phillips-Exeter Academy

1910

Graduates from the University of Pennsylvania in sociology

1911

Becomes secretary of the Negro YMCA in Norfolk, Virginia

1917

Marries Maude Bulkley

1918

Moves to Detroit to become director of the local Urban League

1920

Convinces the United Community Services to hire a Negro stenographer, making national news

1930

Retires on September 30 as director of the Urban League

1931

Death of first wife Maude Bulkley Dancy; marries Malinda Wells

1963

Awarded Amity Day Award by the Women’s Division of the American Jewish Congress

1968

Dies in Detroit, Michigan on September 10

After college, Dancy worked for a while as a waiter on boats on the Great Lakes and later took a position as the principal of Smallwood Institute in Clairmount, West Virginia. In 1911 he became secretary of the Negro YMCA in Norfolk, the only recreational center for black children at the time, and had as many as five hundred children in his care at one time. Dancy learned many valuable skills managing this institution and was eager to try his hand in larger urban centers. In 1914 Dancy left Virginia and headed to New York City. He worked as a probation officer in the Children’s Court and became active in the Big Brother Movement and the Urban League. In the Big Brother Movement, he later reminisced about offering assistance to the young Countee Cullen, who was to become the great Harlem Renaissance poet. Dancy was offered a position as industrial secretary for the local Urban League. Eugene Kinckle Jones, a key person in the Urban League, influenced his acceptance of the position. Dancy also began to court his childhood sweetheart, Maude Bulkley. Her father, William Lewis Bulkley, was New York’s first black school principal and a founder of the National Urban League. Bulkley had educated his daughter in Europe and was not enthusiastic with the prospect of an American let alone a black as a son-in-law. Maude Buckley’s father had hoped for a life, for all his daughters, away from the racism of the United States. His other two daughters had married American white men but their race was kept a secret from the men they married. Despite her father’s reservation, the couple married on October 27, 1917 and moved to Detroit in 1918. Dancy became director of the Detroit Urban League succeeding Forrester B. Washington.

 

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