Key Highlights About Max Yergan:
- Remained active with the YMCA for 25 Years
- Organized the Council on African Affairs
- World Religious Leader & Educator
Max Yergan was a world religious leader, educator, reformer, and consultant on African affairs.
Yergan was born in Raleigh, NC the son of Lizzie Yergan and the grandson of Fred Yergan, a slave, and apprentice carpenter. He attended St. Ambrose Parish School and went on to further his education atShaw University, where he played football and was a member of the debating team until 1914.
After completing his graduate studies at Springfield College, Yergan became affiliated with the YWCA in 1915. Beginning as an officer in the student Christian movement, he served in the southern states where he remained active with the YMCA for twenty-five years.
At the beginning of World War I, Yergan was sent to organize YMCA units among the African regiments that the British army was activating in Kenya. Upon his return to the United States, he joined the army, and was commissioned chaplain and sent to Europe, where he served in France.
After the war, he was appointed senior secretary of the International Committee of the YMCA and stationed in South Africa. While in Africa, his focused his work on young college men, he spent eighteen years teaching his students to put their faith to practical use and influencing them to become leaders and teachers. In recognition of his labors, he was presented the Harmon Award in 1926 and the Spingarn Medal in 1933.
He was appointed to teach Black history at the City College, New York, in 1936. With this appointment, he became the first black studies teacher on a major campus in the United States. In 1938, in order to assure the perpetuation of his work in Africa, he organized the Council on African Affairs, whose directors included Dr. Ralph J. Bunche, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Paul Robeson.
Yergan was co-publisher with Adam Clayton Powell of The People’s Voice during the 1930s and 1940s and was president of the National Negro Congress. While still head of the Negro Congress in 1946, he led a delegation of the congress to petition the United Nations to eliminate political, economic, and social discrimination in the United States. Yergan spent the final fifteen years of his life as head of the ultra-conservative American African Affairs Association and was an outspoken supporter of the apartheid regime in South Africa. He died in 1975 at the age of eighty-two.