Rev. James H. Robinson Updated

With Original Comments Included

Among the pieces zapped by Yahoo! Contributor Network when they closed my account for not writing as they wished and for graphics they said had no relation to my texts. I have left the text unchanged.

In this case M.I.R. means Missing in Remembrance.

The Rev. James H. Robinson is lost, literally. This is the man who, more than any other individual, inspired the Peace Corps. This is the man who founded Crossroads Africa.

This is the man who, on graduating from Union Theological Seminary, was urged by Harry Emerson Fosdick. the minister of Riverside Church, to take over the defunct Church of the Master in Harlem.

Which he did, building it into a large and influential church with the Morningside Community Center as an adjunct and two camps in New Hampshire, Rabbit Hollow and Forest Lake.

Jim Robinson wrote his own autobiography at the height of his powers, in 1950. It is called Road Without Turning and it reads as a work which bridges the era following the Civil War and stretching to the awakening of the modern Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. Jim fought white kids in his hard scrabble Tennessee neighborhood and managed by a series of determined and serendipitous events to escape the Cleveland ghetto and become a Presbyterian minister educated at Union Seminary.

He was not merely a bridge figure in Black History, sadly ignored now, but also a bridge figure in paving the way for Barack Obama. Virtually all of the "moves" of Barack were prefigured by Jim, the consummate organizer of a huge apparatus of volunteer work, uniting a whole generation of white college students with the task of achieving an integrated and equitable world.

I am one of those who fell under his spell in the 1950s and I have no one in a life filled with acquaintances with remarkable people that I admire more. I remember him as if it was yesterday and I am angered and crestfallen that when I google James. H. Robinson all I get is a 19th Century Civil War soldier of that name.

I believe that Jim became an actual adviser to the Peace Corps. Without him there would have been no Peace Corps. His Crossroads Africa was the model for the JFK initiative. CROSSROADS AFRICA

The Crossroads Africa site merely mentions that Jim founded the organization. A search of the Peace Corps site brings up nary a mention of Jim. He has no Wikipedia page.

So as far as I can figure out Jim is M.I.R. Missing in Remembrance. Maybe that is the best way to be in this world where values are skewed to yield up gallons of references to fleeting celebrities but not one for a wonderful and at one time very well known minister who had a major hand in making today's world possible.


stephencrose said,

April 24, 2010

I was a counselor for one summer and it too meant a great deal. Cheers, S

Thomas C. Washburn said, April 24, 2010

I, too, fell under the spell of James H. Robinson in the 1950's.

It was as a camp counselor at Camp Rabbit Hollow (Winchester, NH) that I first heard him preach and was able to talk with him for a while. This camp (and Camp Forest Lake for girls) were the product of Jim's inspiration of finding a way to bring children from Harlem to the great outdoors for two weeks at a time during summers. This occurred during the period of his ministry at Harlem's Church of the Master, which I now see has just been demolished.

My experiences at Camp Rabbit Hollow allowed me to work with and observe children from different racial backgrounds come together in a very peaceful manner. That has set me up to work for the rest of my life on causes to curb racism in this country.

So, I wish you well in bringing his fame back into the American consciousness.

stephencrose said,

February 6, 2010


I took a ride past Church of the Master last summer and it was there. I wonder if it still is.

There is a Crossroads Africa site. I doubt it has the resources or interest to do more than it has already done.

My guess is that persons with the time and resources will eventually do justice to Jim and several others I could name who have essentially been lost to the corporate memory of the community.

I must say that my efforts to light a fire at Union Theological Seminary were so unrewarded that I finally gave up trying.

Best, S

Charles F. Adams said,

February 6, 2010

It's delightful to read the additional comments, after my first posted comments almost a year ago. They are inspirations.

Recently, as part of my personal Black History Month, and as a Presbyterian Elder, I tried to check out '" again, but more persistently through a search for Jim Robinson's Harlem (Presbyterian) Church of the Master, refered to above, recommended to him by Harry Emerson Fostick.

To my Sadness I found out that (the Presbyterian Church) sold building and land to a developer who razed the church '" in the name of progress? '" and constructed something in its place.

So the questions arise, how much of the records were boxed up and shipped to what "historical society?" To what church(es) did the young paritioners, now not so young, go where they might be found to help develop and oral history? Why can't we stimulate a few of them to construct a Harlem (Presbyterian) Church of the Master WebSite? A complete history, but focusing, initially, at least on Rev Robinson? Why not? To where did Crossroads physically move? Why don't they give him, as founder, more coverage? But perhaps most important to us, why don't "we" create such webpages for CA and also for the Peace Corps, (not to mention for the Presbyterian Church USA during Black History Month?

stephencrose said,

January 24, 2010

This sounds most interesting. I suspect time is of the essence. Please keep us informed of your progress. I see JR as a bridge person leading direct to the present day.

Dr. Moses N. Moore, Jr said,

January 24, 2010 at 7:41 am '¢ Edit

Upon graduation from Eckerd (Florida Presbyterian) College in 1974 I was awarded the "James H. Robinson Award" which came with a copy of his autobiography. I have cherished the text and contined to be inspired by both it and the man as I attended and graduated from Yale Divinity School (MDiv 1977) and Union Theological Seminary (PHD).

I teach and study American and African American religious history and often include mention of him in my courses...Much of my own research is focused a bit earlier on religious figures such as Henry Proctor of Atlanta's First Congregational and Brooklyn's Nazarene Congregational Church....However, I am discovering some overlap that encourages me to consider a full blown reseach project focused Dr. Robinson...Recently, my research has suggested that upon Proctor's death in 1933

Dr. Robinson provided some pastoral assistance to Shelby Rooks as he was called to the pulpit of Nazarene....I wonder if anyone has any information confirming his work at Nazarene....If so please contact me ASAP (moses.moore@asu.edu) Thanks...and will keep you posted as I start to consider a full blown research project focused on Dr. Robinson.

james paton said,

January 16, 2010

I was a member of the first Crossroads Africa in the summer of 1958. Jim Robinson spoke at Earlham College during

the 1957-58 school year, when I was a senior. As a result of my meeting him then, I applied and was accepted as a ember of the group that spent the summer in Cameroun. It was my good fortune to be able to go, partly because I spoke French.

That summer in Cameroun directed my life, I went on to work many years in Africa with non-governmental agencies, and eventually several years with UNICEF in East Africa. All because of my chance to participate in Crossroads.

I have just been able to review all my color slides of that summer, including one of Jim and Gertrude Robinson taken on the steps of the Theological Seminary. That summer is very vivid in my memory, and Jim Robinson, I salute you for what you did to help direct my life. I lived 2 years or more each in Congo-Kinshasa (now of course Zaire), Algeria, Sudan, Somalia and Uganda. Thanks, Jim!!

Rev.Douglas A Greenough said,

November 26, 2009

I was pleased to discover your article . I think that it was in 1948 0r 49 that Dr. Robinson was to be our speaker for the SCM Christian mssion at the University of Alberta in Edmonton Alberta Canada. He was highly articulate , and made a great impact of the well attended mission He spoke with passion and enthusiasm for his cause. I remember that on the Sunday Molrning he was the guest speaker at Knox United Church ( Edmonton ) and his sermon that started at 11.30 AM lasted until 1.00 PM - and not a person stirred they were so gripped by his message .

I was president of the Alberta SCM at that time and was privileged to have him as a houjse guest.

I am now retired but see that event as one of the highlights of my life.

Rev. Doug Greenough - Sarnia , Ontario Canada.

Dr Randy Ruppart said,

September 20, 2009 at 12:24 pm '¢ Edit

Like others, here, I have only recently discovered this site and am finding it very, very welcome. In 1962, I was a Crossroader in then Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, along with eight others aplus our leader, Dr. Bill Craig. James Robinson was clearly our inspiration and we loved to hear him talk and to talk to him, during the orientation period in DC. The OCA staff in E Africa all seemed to follow in kind. This site is a fantastic new development and is meeting a real need for us who were OCA and others who were touched by him.

Without doubt, the experience changed the lives of all of us in profound ways, many of which we could only barely understand at the time. Three months after returning to Trinity Univ. in San Antonio, I lost my serious girlfriend b/c our world views and outlook had become so different that we were no longer compatible. Later, I was fortunate to visit one of our team, Clara, from time to time and then to have even more contact with Frank who was in NYC as I was. I would like to find ways to bring other OCA participants into this new group.

In addition, I was inspired to attend Princeton Seminary, feeling often that I was fulfilling something Dr. Robinson would have been happy I had. OCA caused me to see almost everything differently and that has continued to the present. I will be happy to join efforts to raise awareness and make an increasing number of people aware of him and his legacy. Perhaps young Joe Kennedy can be of help, since we have now lost all of the brothers.

For several years, I have thought about a reunion and didn't know of the OCA site until earlier this year; I can't be sure that the staff there will be able to be much help. TK U

Darryl Cox said,

May 6, 2009

Is Rev. James Robinson the same Rev. James Robinson who is listed as a graduate of Lincoln University in 1935? (Yes, S)

Katharine Baird Wills said,

March 19, 2009

I just finished Rev James Robinson's autobiography and am deeply moved. The book belonged to my father, who was a Presbyterian minister, Rev James Baird. It was among some books and papers that were given to me from my father's past (he passed away 8 years ago). I found his underlines throughout the book very insightful and showed me that Rev Robinson also had an impact on the ministry of my father.

Thank you for this web site and hope that more people learn about the character and faith of this man of God.

Priscilla Willson said,

March 13, 2009

I was thinking about James Robinson today and found this website. I couldn't agree more that Dr. Robinson should be remembered as one of the early African-American heroes of our country.

When I was a teenager in boarding school in Massachusetts Dr. Robinson was invited to come to our school every year to be the guest speaker at the Sunday morning chapel service. I was lucky enough to be his "hostess" during lunches and remember sitting at his feet during the after-lunch visits. He was so very articulate and brave and strong and of course a huge influence on a few of us young women. From him we learned that racism must be despised. The power of his personality remains with me even many years later and I have always been puzzled by the fact that he isn't known as one of the most important leaders of the Presbyterian Church USA (I am an Elder of this church) and in fact seems to have been forgotten. Surely there are still people out there who remember him and knew him well. It would be good to know who they are. I encourage further research and would offer my help if I knew where to start.

Charles F. Adams, WebVisionCaster said,

February 5, 2009 at

Thank you, thank you, thank you! It's great to find at least one (more) who remembers and admires the Rev. Dr. James H. "Jim" Robinson as much, perhaps more, than I do! Now let's find many more '" and create an oral history/biography of him, (such as for the Smithsonian) '" but in the meantime for the Internet!

Jim, '" I can only call him that because you do '" is indeed a most sadly neglected M.I.R. Perhaps a most egregiously sad negligence in his own Presbyterian denomination, (of which I am an elder). Not even a young Black Pastors in our dying denomination knew ANYTHING of him until I called his attention to him with one of my two copies of his out of print autobiography, (a few of which may be available from Amazon, where I got mine).

Jim was on the "board of directors" of Kennedy's Peace Corps '" probably left when Republican Blanchard replaced Shriver's successor, (whose name escapes me at the moment), '" Vaughn, I think. I was not a Peace Corps volunteer, but a well paid FSO (Foreign Service Officer) in the mid to late 60's when I met Robinson on a few all too brief occasions when he spoke before the staff.

I too am sadly mystified at his disappearance '" perhaps especially in his own denomination which disparately needs Presbyterian African-American roll models to stem, then reverse, its decline, especially among African-Americans. (Neither the two largest fragments of Presbyterianism, PC(USA) or PCA, are likely to accomplish this feat '" perhaps the somewhat newly energized (EPA) Evangelical Presbyterian Church can accomplish this miracle (with out the Lord) while picking up the remnants of the continuing Presbyterian implosion, but only if it will resurrect the memory of Rev. James H. Robinson and his works.

In the mean time, why don't we '" yes, you and I, perhaps, like the Marine corps, with a few good man (and women) begin by using whatever "technology" we can master, or muster, like audio tapes '" digital or otherwise '" and record key people's remembrances of him from:

Churches, especially his Church of the Master, but others was well

Peace Corps

Crossroads Africa

Black and white Historian '" in the Black History Month '" ASAP


And start a Smithsonian-like Oral History

I'm game. Are you?

Dr. Robinson inspired me as few others have. He, too, is one of my heroes of any race, religion or ethnic nationality '" (and I was about 40 years a Unitarian and traveled a not insignificant part of the world). (Perhaps in the Black History Month I might appropriately mention Paul Robeson and Demon Tutu.)

Charles F. Adams


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