The Black Man Who Taught at Auburn University in 1947

hathawayEight students at Auburn University in Alabama began an educational project last fall on the work of African American artist Isaac Scott Hathaway. Hathaway, the son of a former slave, was best known for his sculpture of busts of key African American historical figures. In 1937 he established the ceramics department at Tuskegee University.

But in a surprise, the students discovered that Hathaway taught a workshop at Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University, in the summer of 1947. This was 16 years before the racial integration of the university.

The students found a recommendation from Marion Spidle, dean of the School of Home Economics at Auburn, which read, “Professor Hathaway gave excellent lectures in the composition and analysis of clays, slips, glazes, etc., in the development of ceramics as an art and clearly showed how well qualified he is to make his own formulas using all Alabama clay.”

Hathaway moved to Montgomery in 1947 and became director of ceramics at Alabama State College where he worked until retirement in 1963. He died in 1967.

The Auburn students have created a website that serves as an educational resource on the work of Professor Hathaway.

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