Wendell P. Dabney      

Guide to African American Resources
at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives




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I. Garland Penn
  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, 1930.

To learn more about I. Garland Penn, consult the following resources:

The Life and Times of Irvine Garland Penn
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   Request slip
Irvine 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   Request slip
Irvine Garland Penn Photo Collection, [1890-1959]
Photo SC#122
This collection contains photos of the Penn and Sandipher families. It also has photos of Douglass School faculty members.   View catalog record   Request slip

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 Center.
  • "Negro Churchman Dies: Dr. I. Garland Penn Leaves an Outstanding Record Behind," Cincinnati Enquirer, July 23, 1930, page 6.


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This online guide opened on February 10, 2004.