Hancock, Gordon Blaine

views updated

Hancock, Gordon Blaine

June 23, 1884
July 24, 1970

The sociologist and minister Gordon Hancock was born in rural Ninety-Six, a township in Greenwood County, South Carolina. He was educated in Newberry, a neighboring town, by a private instructor and acquired a teacher's certificate in 1902. In 1904 he matriculated at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, receiving a bachelor of arts degree in 1911 and a bachelor of divinity in 1912. Ordained in 1911, he became pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Newberry. He was named principal of Seneca Institute, a coed Baptist boarding school for blacks in Seneca, South Carolina, in 1912. Hancock left South Carolina in 1918 to attend Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. One of only two blacks enrolled in the school, Hancock earned his second B.A. in 1919 and his second B.D. in 1920.

That same year, Hancock entered Harvard as a graduate fellow in sociology and earned a master's degree in 1921. Shortly thereafter, he accepted a professorship at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, where he organized one of the first courses on race relations at any black college. In 1925 he accepted the pastorship at Richmond's Moore Street Baptist Church. He also wrote a weekly column for the Associated Negro Press that appeared in 114 black newspapers and preached the merits of interracial cooperation and black self-help.

In 1931 Hancock founded the Torrance School of Race Relations at Virginia Union. During the Depression, he originated the Double Duty Dollar idea, encouraging blacks to patronize black-owned businesses. Disdainful of what he viewed as overambition among blacks, he also promoted a Hold Your Job campaign, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a solid black working class.

Characterized by some as an accommodationist, Hancock looked for support from southern white moderates in trying to end segregation without sacrificing black identity, self-help, and racial solidarity. Hancock believed that blacks should be accorded full equality, and he advocated black economic, cultural, social, and political self-development.

Alarmed by the growing racial tension and aggression in the South during World War II, Hancock convened fifty-two black southern leaders at the Southern Conference on Race Relations in Durham, North Carolina, in October 1942 to propose a "New Charter of Race Relations" for the South. Serving as director of the conference, Hancock helped produce the Durham Manifesto, a statement issued by the conference in December of that year, outlining the leaders' carefully nuanced demands for improvements in the position of African Americans in the South. Following this, the black leaders met with white moderates at a conference in Richmond and, with Hancock again serving as director, agreed to form the Southern Regional Council.

Hancock took a slightly more aggressive approach to racial issues in the years following the Durham conference, questioning the merits of interracial cooperation with southern whites and more openly attacking racial segregation. Hancock's position as a spokesperson for the black community began to fade just as the civil rights movement started to receive national attention. He was named professor emeritus at Virginia Union and retired from there in 1952, removing himself almost entirely from the public spotlight. In 1963, Hancock left his pastorship at Moore Street Baptist Church. He spent his later years collecting black spirituals as well as composing and publishing his own songs (Two Homeward Songs, 1965). Hancock died at his home in Richmond, Virginia, in 1970.

See also Durham Manifesto; Sociology


Gavins, Raymond. The Perils and Prospects of Southern Black Leadership: Gordon Blaine Hancock, 18841970. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1977.

louise p. maxwell (1996)

lydia mcneill (1996)

About this article

Hancock, Gordon Blaine

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article