Edwin Embree, Berea Founder’s Grandson, the Focus of Article about Racial Prejudice


Edwin Embree

The racial injustices toward Japanese Americans confined in U.S. camps during World War II and one man’s efforts to help them is the focus of a recently-published article in HistPhil. Authored by historian Alfred Perkins, the story describes the role of philanthropist Edwin Embree, the grandson of Berea’s founder, John Gregg Fee, in protecting civil rights and ending discriminatory practices against citizens of Japanese ancestry, particularly those relocated from the west coast to the numerous internment camps in the central United States.

Embree, who in his youth lived at his grandfather’s home, was greatly influenced by Fee’s commitment to “impartial love” toward “all peoples of the earth.” As an adult, Embree was president of the Julius Rosenwald Fund, a philanthropic foundation established by the president of the Sears, Roebuck and Company. In that role, Embree had enormous influence on how the foundation’s funds would be used, including for construction of modern schools for African American students during the era of segregation.

Perkins, a now-retired Berea College professor of European history and the former academic dean, is a noted scholar on the life of Embree. Perkins authored a biography titled “Edwin Rogers Embree: The Julius Rosenwald Fund, Foundation Philanthropy, and American Race Relations” (Indiana University Press, 2011). HistPhil, which published the recent story, is a web publication on the history of the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, with a particular emphasis on how history is able to shed light on contemporary philanthropic issues. A copy of the article can be read at: https://histphil.org/2016/04/20/edwin-embree-as-exemplar-how-one-philanthropic-leader-confronted-racial-prejudice-during-the-second-world-war/

Categories: News, People
Tags: Edwin Rogers Embree, interracial education, Philanthropy, racial Justice

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College only admits academically promising students with limited financial resources—primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia—but welcomes students from 40 states and 70 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly to earn money for books, housing and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.

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