Bassett, John Spencer, 1867-1928Alternative names
Historian and professor of history at Trinity College (now Duke University), Durham, N.C., and Smith College.
From the description of Papers, 1806-1943. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 19242277
Historian, editor, and educator.
From the description of Papers of John Spencer Bassett, 1770-1978 (bulk 1894-1928). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71072393
John Spencer Bassett, a professor in the History Department of Trinity College from 1893-1906, was a renowned educator and advocate of freedom of expression. Bassett began publication of an annual series of HISTORICAL PAPERS of the Trinity College Historical Society; founded the honorary society 9019; served as secretary/treasurer of the Roanoke Colony Memorial Association; and founded and edited the scholarly journal, the SOUTH ATLANTIC QUARTERLY. In 1903, Bassett published an article, "Stirring Up the Fires of Race Antipathy" in the SOUTH ATLANTIC QUARTERLY, that praised the accomplishments of African Americans and offered views on how to improve race relations. Bassett's views brought on a controversy that became known as the "Bassett Affair" that helped to establish the concept of academic freedom in higher education in the United States.
From the description of John Spencer Bassett collection, 1802-1998 (bulk 1893-1911). (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 53906262
John Spencer Bassett, Professor of History [Smith College Press Board, 1928]
John Spencer Bassett was born in 1867 in Tarboro, NC, to Mary Jane Wilson and Richard Baxter Bassett, a builder and abolitionist. After graduating high school, pneumonia forced him to take a two year break before entering the Davis Military Academy in 1885. In 1888, Bassett graduated from Trinity College (now Duke University) and took a deanship there before leaving to become a history fellow at Johns Hopkins University. He received his PhD in American History at Johns Hopkins in 1894 after completing his dissertation titled The Constitutional Beginnings of North Carolina, 1663-1729 . In 1892, Bassett married Jessie Lewellin, an elementary school principal. Together, they had four children, two who survived to adulthood: Richard Horace and Margaret Byrd.
Bassett returned to Trinity College for the next twelve years. Building upon the work of his predecessor, Bassett actively supported the Trinity College Historical Society for the study of southern history. Believing that everyone could collect, if not write, he worked towards acquiring a body of materials for historical research. Students, administrators, and alumni donated Confederate money, American Indian relics, travel souvenirs, and political memorabilia as well as volumes of books, pamphlets, religious and secular newspapers, maps, and manuscripts.
In 1902, Bassett founded and edited the South Atlantic Quarterly, a publication devoted to "the literary, historical, and social development of the South". In 1903, Bassett became the center of a controversy when he wrote "Stirring Up the Fires of Race Antipathy", an article in which he declared Booker T. Washington "to be the greatest man to be born in the South after Robert E. Lee". In response to a barrage of calls for his immediate dismissal, Bassett handed in his resignation from his professorship at Trinity. Surprisingly, the college refused to accept his resignation and the controversy became known as The Bassett Affair of 1903. It is regularly recounted as an exmplar of academic freedom. In 1906, Bassett left Trinity to begin teaching at Smith College as a Professor of American History. While he was teaching at Smith, Basset held several extracurricular positions in various organizations including: Old Letters Club, Library Fund, Smith College Studies in History and the Sydenham Parsons Foundation History Department.
Bassett became Secretary of the American Historical Association in 1919; he controversially supported the decision that school textbooks should be impartial and not emphasize the heroism of famous individuals. Bassett carried this idea into his own work as a writer and teacher, and he became known in the field for his objective approach to historical figures, his dedication to research and his emphasis on preserving primary documents. In 1920 he served as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee advisory group, an event which led to the reelection of Woodrow Wilson. The committee focused most of its efforts on increasing public support for the League of Nations and Women's Suffrage. Bassett sought to influence public opinion by soliciting and publishing articles written by prominent individuals in support of these charges.
Even his death in 1928 was surrounded by controversy. After being hit and killed by a streetcar in Washington D.C., the police failed to contact his family until several days after the incident, prompting an inquiry in the Washington police department.
From the guide to the John Spencer Bassett Papers 42., 1867 - 1928, 1895 - 1990, (Smith College Archives)
1867, Sept. 10:
Born, Tarboro, N.C.
B.A., Trinity College, Randolph County, N.C. (later Duke University, Durham, N.C.)
Instructor in English, Trinity College, Randolph County, N.C. Founded "9019," student scholarship group, Trinity College, Randolph County, N.C.
Married Jessie Lewellin
Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md. Published The Constitutional Beginnings of North Carolina, 1663-1729 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press. 73 pp.) Published The Regulators of North Carolina, 1765-1771 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office. 72 pp.)
1894- 1906: Professor of history, Trinity College, Randolph County, N.C.
Published Suffrage in the State of North Carolina, 1776-1861 (Washington: American Historical Association. 17 pp.)
Published Slavery and Servitude in the Colony of North Carolina (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press. 86 pp.)
Published Anti-Slavery Leaders of North Carolina (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press. 74 pp.)
Published Slavery in the State of North Carolina (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press. 111 pp.)
Founder and editor, South Atlantic Quarterly (resigned as editor, 1905) Published The Writings of "Colonel William Byrd, of Westover, in Virginia, Esqr." (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, & Co.)
Published "Stirring Up the Fires of Race Antipathy." South Atlantic Quarterly 2 (Oct. 1903): 107-113
1906- 1928: Professor of history, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.
Published The Federalist System, 1789-1801 (New York: Harper and Brothers. 327 pp.)
Published Life of Andrew Jackson (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, & Co. 2 vols.)
Published A Short History of the United States (New York: Macmillan Co. 885 pp.)
Published The Plain Story of American History (New York: Macmillan Co. 545 pp.)
Published The Middle Group of American Historians (New York: Macmillan Co. 324 pp.) Published Correspondence of George Bancroft and Jared Sparks, 1823-1832 (Northampton, Mass.: Department of History, Smith College. 77 pp.)
Published The Lost Fruits of Waterloo (New York: Macmillan Co. 289 pp.)
Published Our War With Germany: A History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 386 pp.)
1919- 1928: Secretary, American Historical Association
Chairman, advisory group, Democratic National Committee
Published Letters of Francis Parkman to Pierre Margry (Northampton, Mass: Department of History, Smith College. 86 pp.)
Published The Southern Plantation Overseer as Revealed in His Letters (Northampton, Mass.: Department of History of Smith College. 280 pp.)
Published Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926 (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co. 355 pp.)
1926- 1935: Published Correspondence of Andrew Jackson (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington. 7 vols.)
Published Makers of A New Nation (New Haven: Yale University Press. 344 pp.) Published The League of Nations: A Chapter in World Politics (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co. 415 pp.)
1928, Jan. 27:
Died, Washington, D.C.
From the guide to the John Spencer Bassett Papers, 1770-1978, (bulk 1894-1928), (Manuscript Division Library of Congress)
John Spencer Bassett, a professor in the History Department of Trinity College from 1893-1906, was a renowned educator and advocate of freedom of expression. A native of North Carolina, Bassett received his A.B. from Trinity College in 1888 and his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University in 1894. He returned to Trinity College to teach and was active in teaching, writing and collecting southern Americana. Bassett began publication of an annual series of Historical Papers of the Trinity College Historical Society; founded the honorary society 9019, a precursor to Phi Beta Kappa; founded and edited the scholarly journal, the South Atlantic Quarterly ; and encouraged his students to publish and fostered their interests in Southern history.
In 1903, Bassett published an article, Stirring Up the Fires of Race Antipathy in the South Atlantic Quarterly, that praised the accomplishments of African Americans and offered views on how to improve race relations. Bassett's views brought on a controversy that became known as the Bassett Affair that helped to establish the concept of academic freedom in higher education in the United States.
Bassett was named Professor of History at Smith College in 1906. Bassett continued his career as a noted historiographer and became the acknowledged authority on Andrew Jackson. He also served as secretary of the American Historical Association from 1919 to 1928. John Spencer Bassett died in Washington, DC, in 1928.
From the guide to the John Spencer Bassett Collection, 1802 - 1998 (bulk 1893-1911), (University Archives, Duke University)
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Educational change--Southern states|
|United States--Politics and government--1865-1933|
|Yazoo Fraud, 1795|
|Freedom of speech|
|Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)|