Black, Algernon David

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BLACK, ALGERNON DAVID (1900–1993), educator, author and Ethical Culture leader. Born to immigrant Russian Jewish parents, Black began a lifelong involvement with the Society for *Ethical Culture after receiving a scholarship to the Ethical Culture School in New York City. After graduating from Harvard in 1923, he returned to teach history, business, and ethics in the Ethical Culture school system. Black combined his teaching responsibilities with voluntary work for a variety of social causes, including efforts to strengthen workers' rights and equalize housing opportunities. This civic engagement reflected the principles and priorities of the Ethical Culture movement, particularly its belief in the importance of the individual, its emphasis on living by ethical standards, and its work on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. A protégé of Felix *Adler, Black rapidly moved into the leadership cadre of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. He was appointed to the Society's Board of Leaders in 1934, chosen as executive leader in 1943, elected chairman of the Board of Leaders in 1945, and installed as Senior Leader ten years later. He held this office until 1973, but remained active within the Society as its leader emeritus for another decade. "Articulate, energetic, and magnetic in personality," Black was the public face of the movement for over 40 years, speaking regularly on the radio, participating on a plethora of boards, panels, and committees that dealt with social and civil rights issues, and writing five books.


H. Friess, Felix Adler and Ethical Culture (1981); New York Times (May 11, 1993).

[Adam Mendelsohn (2nd ed.)]