Max Yergan Letter to Ralph Cheney
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A letter from Max Yergan to Springfield College professor, R.L. Cheney. In his letter, Yergan apologizes for his lack of correspondence but explains that because of the uncertainty of the mail system during the war he wrote very few letters. Yergan summarizes what he's been doing since leaving Springfield - enlisting in the war and traveling to India, East Africa and France. He tells about the Springfield College men that he saw while overseas including Dr. McCurdy. Yergan closes his letter by promising to write a full letter soon. Of note in this letter is the letterhead which indicates that Yergan was writing from the International Committe of the YMCA's Colored Men's Department. YMCA work with and by blacks began in 1853 and continued until 1946 when, after growing realization that racial discrimination was incompatible with the YMCA's Christian ideals, the YMCA's Jim Crow policies were reexamined and the organization called for desegregation and the end of racial discrimination. After graduating from Springfield College, Yergan continues his YMCA work as a war work secretary in 1916. He spent two years accompanying the Indian Troops in Dar-Es-Salaam, German East Africa, and then went to France to work with the African-American units of the Expeditionary Army. After the war, he returned to the United States and was ordained a minister. In 1921, he set out for South Africa to develop a YMCA for black South Africans. A fierce advocate for the rights of black South Africans, Yergan lectured before the white Student Christian Associations in South Africa on the inclusive nature of the Kingdom of God, forcing them to re-examine the racial conditions of their country. Yergan’s work got a boost when John D. Rockefeller Jr., donated $25,000 toward the construction of a YMCA building, which Yergan called the South African Training Center. In 1936, he returned to the United States and became the first teacher of African-American studies at City College of New York. Yergan was a controversial activist whose politics, over the years, shifted from communist to anti-communist, but his pioneering YMCA work in South Africa stands as his monumental legacy.
|Yergan, Max, 1893-1975|
|Springfield College Archives and Special Collections|
|World War, 1914-1918|
Springfield College--Alumni and alumnae
International Young Men's Christian Association Training School (Springfield, Mass.)
Yergan, Max, 1893-1975
Cheney, Ralph L
YMCA Hall of Fame
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