Irving Garland Penn was born on October 7th, 1867 in New Glasgow,
Virginia. At the age of five his family moved to Lynchburg where he
lived during his childhood. He went to school until right before his
senior year when he entered the newspaper business. He eventually
became editor of the Laborer, a small African American newspaper,
in 1886. His work even received good criticism from the white press.
Penn eventually returned to school and finished his secondary education.
In 1887 he became a teacher and was promoted to principal of the school
in 1895. During this time he continued his education, receiving a
master's degree from Rust College in 1890 and a doctorate from Wiley
College in 1908.
In 1897 he moved to Atlanta to become Assistant General Secretary
of the Epworth League for the Colored Conferences of the Methodist
Episcopal Church. Thus began a career as one of the most prominent
lay persons of the M.E. Church. In 1912 he moved to Cincinnati to
take the post of Co-Corresponding Secretary of the Freedman's Aid
Society of the M.E. Church. In this position, he secured funds for
several colleges under the board's care, including Rust University,
Morgan College and Philander Smith College. He was able to gain the
support of James N. Gamble and other high profile benefactors.
Penn continued to serve the M.E. Church throughout his life. He was
asked to be on the Joint Commission on Unification of the M.E. Church,
which worked to mend the rift between the North and South Churches
caused by the issue of slavery.
Penn also wroteThe Afro-American Press and Its Writers; The
United Negro; and The College of Life or Practical Self Educator:
How to Better the Colored Race. Irving Penn died on July 22,
To learn more about I. Garland Penn, consult the following
The Life and Times of Irvine Garland
By Joanne K. Harrison and Grant Harrison
General B P412i
This book covers
the three main periods of Penn's life: his life in Lynchburg,
Atlanta and Cincinnati. It also includes a family tree for the Penn
family. View catalog record
Garland Penn, 1867-1930: A Pioneer in Afro-American Progress: A Biography
By Joanne K. Abrams
Mss qA161 RMV
This biography of Penn was written in 1973 as a research paper by
Joanne Abrams while
she was a student at Howard University. Request slip
The Afro-American Press and Its Editors
By I. Garland Penn [et al.]
General 070.092 P412
As indicated by its title, this 1891 book gives a detailed list of
African American newspapers and their editors. The introduction includes
a sketch of Penn's early life. View catalog record
Irvine Garland Penn Photo Collection,
This collection contains photos of the Penn and Sandipher families.
It also has photos of Douglass School faculty members. View catalog record
Sources Used for Biographical Sketch:
Harrison, Joanne K. and Harrison, Grant. The
Life and Times of Irvine Garland Penn, General B P412i, Cincinnati
History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.
Abrams, Joanne K. Irvine Garland Penn, 1867-1930;
A Pioneer in Afro-American Progress: A Biography, 1973, Mss
qA161 RMV, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum
"Negro Churchman Dies: Dr. I. Garland Penn Leaves
an Outstanding Record Behind," Cincinnati Enquirer, July
23, 1930, page 6.