Gumby's People > Kelly Miller
Like Maurice Hunter, Kelly Miller is an example of a figure whose contemporary prominence made him a likely choice to draw Gumby's interest yet whose lasting place in historical memory is less secure than might have been imagined. Yet in his time, Miller was famous as a scholar, university administrator, and popular commentator (the role that won him Gumby's attention here) in a professional life that spanned from the 1890s through the 1930s.
Trained at a post-baccalaureate level as a mathematician, Miller used his statistical acumen to create a name for himself during the 1890s in the still-new discipline of sociology. In 1890, he began his long career at Howard University, creating the school's department of sociology in 1895, greatly expanding the university's enrollment as an influential dean, and establishing its function as a pioneering center for the study of African-American history and culture. At the same time, Miller leveraged his prominent role at Howard to gain an influential voice in debates over the proper relationship between higher education and African-American political activism. It was in this role of public intellectual that Miller gained his widest fame, commenting in editorial columns on topics ranging from civil rights activism to world events that were published in more than one hundred newspapers over his career. Examples of his weekly column (originally published in the Baltimore Afro-American) appear here.
The above page (see: "Negro Columnists, pt. 1," p. ) from Gumby's volume documenting black newspapermen showcases the range of Miller's interests as a columnist while also highlighting Gumby's creative use of the scrapbook medium to compile multiple works by a single author in one visual field. As the alternate image (see above right: "Negro Columnists, pt. 1," p. [65, one flap open]) shows, Gumby mounted each clipping on a separate sheet that could be folded back to reveal both the column beneath it as well as another of Miller's columns mounted on the reverse side, allowing Gumby to preserve up to fifteen of Miller's columns on a single page.