new icn messageflickr-free-ic3d pan white
Channing Tobias, headed African American YMCA: 1940 ca. | by Washington Area Spark
Back to album

Channing Tobias, headed African American YMCA: 1940 ca.

Channing Tobias (left) was know primarily for his work at the YMCA where he often acted as a spokesperson for African American rights. He is shown here in a photo with Dr. Charles Garvin circa 1940.


As early as 1905 Tobias joined the YMCA and eventually became Secretary of the National Council. He also served the organization as the student secretary for the International Committee.


In 1923 Tobias was appointed Senior Secretary in the Department of Interracial Services within the Colored Work Department, a position he held for twenty-three years. As head of the Interracial Services Division, Tobias strenuously endeavored to enhance race relations in the United States and abroad.


As a member of the Executive Committee of the National Interracial Conference and as the associate director of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, Tobias campaigned to promote interracial cooperation and redress racial grievances.


His crowning public achievement in interracial affairs occurred when he became a delegate and speaker at the 1926 World Conference in Finland.


In 1934 after a six-month fight against Jim Crow in the U.S. Capitol restaurants was lost, Tobias reflected on the campaign:


“…when Congressman Oscar DePriest was waging the fight against racial discrimination in the House of Representatives restaurant there was no time then for colored people to be quibbling whether every move made was correct; the struggle to put an end to Jim Crow under the roof of a federal building in the nation’s capital, was too important in its implications for differences; we should have all been behind Mr. DePriest.”


After retiring from the YMCA in 1946, Tobias became the first black director of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, a philanthropic association that awarded funds to institutions that provided educational opportunities for African American children. Tobias also became active in the NAACP and received the coveted Spingarn Medal in 1948 for distinguished work on behalf of African Americans.


Tobias served on numerous boards, including the Committee on Race Relations and the Commission on the Church and Minority Groups of the Federal Council of Churches, as well as the board of trustees for Howard University, Hampton Institute, and the NAACP.


During World War II Tobias was appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt to the National Advisory Committee on Selective Service during World War II. In 1946 President Harry Truman appointed Tobias to the Civil Rights Committee.


He also served the United States as an alternate representative to the Sixth Assembly to the United Nations. Channing H. Tobias died on November 5, 1961.


Partially excerpted from the Black Past Remembered and Reclaimed.


For a detailed blog post on the fight against Jim Crow at the U.S. Capitol restaurants, see


For related images, see


The photographer is unknown. The image is a Scurlock Studio photograph courtesy of Scurlock Studio Records, ca. 1905-1994, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

0 faves
Taken circa 1940