Ellis Knox, a pillar for Black education


Ellis
O'Neal Knox
Date: 
Fri, 1900-07-06

*Ellis O'Neal Knox was born on this date in 1900. He was an African American civil rights activist and educator.

From Lakeport, California, Knox was one of five children; his father, Prince Albert (or “Al” for short), was a Latin teacher and graduate of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1913, the family moved to Oakland, CA. where he finished high school with honors. In 1922, he graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and soon accepted a teaching position at Phoenix Union High School in Arizona.

After four years on staff at Union, Knox and his soon-to-be wife, Lois, moved to Los Angeles, where he worked on the faculty at Los Angeles High School and began the effort for his Master's degree at the University of Southern California. During this time, Knox became close friends with H. Claude Hudson and California architect, Paul R. Williams. By 1931, Knox had completed both a Master's and Doctoral Degree in the History and Philosophy of Education, becoming the first African-American on the American Pacific Coast to receive a doctorate. From there, Knox was offered a position at Howard University and moved east with his wife and three-year-old daughter, Elena. By 1934, he was made full professor and from 1937 to 1945, while still on faculty at Howard, served as the Assistant Director for the Office of Vocational Education in Washington.

Close friends with Ralph Bunche and many other intellectual scholars and social advocates, Knox began working to improve the conditions for education for minorities. In 1941, he obtained an adjunct professorship at American University and in 1945 was appointed as an adjunct lecturer at Yale, pushing for improvement on minority education. Knox was also the National Chairman of the Education Division of the NAACP from 1940 to 1962. During this time, he worked with Charles H. Houston and Thurgood Marshall in preparation for the Brown vs. the Board of Education case.

In 1955, Knox accepted a position as a member of the President's White House Conference on Education. Seven years later, he became a consultant to both the Peace Corps and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In 1967, Knox and his wife returned to Los Angeles, where he served as professor emeritus in the graduate education divisions of the UCLA and USC.

Throughout his lifetime, Knox published several studies on the philosophy of education, including five books; they are: The Decline of Denomination Colleges in the United States (1935), The Minority Group Educational Programs in the United States (1947), Democracy and the District of Columbia Public Schools (1957), Land Grant College Education in the United States (1963), and The History of Nursery School Programs in America (1966). Dr. Ellis Knox died at his home in California in 1975.

Reference:
USC Office of Black Alumni Programs,
University of Southern California,
Widney Alumni House,
635 Childs Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0461,

Allison M. Chaney ©,
Master of Science in Education,
great-granddaughter

To Become a Professor

Person / name: 

Knox, Ellis O'Neal