From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Dill, Augustus Granville

(born: November 30, 1881  -  died: March 8, 1956) 

Augustus Granville Dill was a writer, musician and civil rights activist. Born on November 30, 1881 in Portsmouth, OH, he was one of the four children of John and Elizabeth Stratton Dill of Louisville, KY. He was raised by his father’s second wife, Nettie Alice Holiday Dill, whose parents were from Kentucky, according to Augustus Dill's World War I Draft Registration Card found in Ancestry. In 1900, he was a schoolteacher in Portsmouth, according to the 1900 U.S. Census. 

In 1906 he graduated from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) with a bachelor's degree in sociology. He struck up a close friendship with W. E. B. Dubois at the school. He would go on to graduate with a second bachelor's from Harvard in 1908 before returning to Atlanta University to complete his master's in sociology in 1909.

After DuBois moved to New York to found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP], Dill was hired in 1910 as an associate professor of sociology and organist at Atlanta University [source: Secretary’s Second Report. Class Committee: M. L. Newhall, et. al. Harvard College, 1914 (online at Archive.org)].

During his time at Atlanta University, Dill co-wrote seminal works, including The College-Bred Negro (1910), The Common School and the Negro (1911), The Negro American Artisan (1912), and Morals and Manners Among Negro Americans (1914), all of which spoke eloquently on the effects of racial apartheid on the development of Black folks in the United States [source: "Raised Voices among Pretty manners: Profiles of ten LGBT Activists for Social Justice" at the Outhistory.org website]. These works were produced in collaboration with W. E. B. DuBois, whom Dill counted as both friend and mentor.

In 1913, Dill moved to New York City to become the first office manager at the publishing house that printed The Crisis, a quarterly publication about the work of the NAACP; Dill served as an  assistant editor of the The Crisis. DuBois praised his efforts thusly: "[Dill] gave to the work his utmost devotion and to him was due much of its phenomenal business success" [source: the  "Augustus Dill" entry in Harlem Renaissance Lives: from the African American National Biography, H. L. Gates Jr. and E. B. Higginbotham, eds., p. 159].

At The Crisis Dill worked alongside the circulation manager Frank Turner, who was from Richmond, KY. Although the publishing arm went out of business in 1921, The Crisis continues as a quarterly journal today. One of the first things published by The Crisis was a children's magazine,  The Brownie Book (begun in 1920), which sought to make African American history accessible to children [source: "Augustus Dill" entry in Harlem Renaissance Lives: from the African American National Biography, ed. H. L. Gates Jr. and E. B. Higginbotham].

In 1928 Dill was detained as a result of a sting operation targeting homosexuality. This led DuBois to fire and distance himself from Dill. As a result of the withdrawal of support from Dubois, Dill recused himself from academic and literary life and turned his attention to music, supporting himself by playing piano and organ, running a bookstore, and giving music lessons to children.

In 1951, Dill moved to Louisville to live with his sister, Mary Dill Broadus [widow of Robert Broadus] at 827 S Preston Road. He worked as a doorman for the Grand Theater, according to the Caron's Louisville City Directory 1957. While there he continued to work occasionally as an organist.

He died of coronary occlusion at the age of 74 in Louisville on March 8, 1956 at the Red Cross Hospital [source: Kentucky Death Certificate file no. 116 56-5072, registrar no. ?-622]. In his 1940 book Dusk of Dawn, W. E. B. DuBois wrote, "I dismissed my co-worker forthwith, and spent heavy days regretting my act" [source Black Like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual African American Fiction, ed. D. W. Carbado, D. A. McBride and D. Weise]. 

This entry was written by Angelica Miller.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Dill, Augustus Granville,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 14, 2024, https://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/index.php/items/show/300003718.

Last modified: 2023-06-09 13:58:26