Anson Phelps Stokes–Father of Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr.

Anson Phelps Stokes–Father of Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr.


ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



 My dear Mr. Washington: I enclose herewith for your confidential information a proposal which

I expect to bring before the Phelps-Stokes Trustees at their next meeting. You will see that it is

an attempt to help in the solution of the negro problem from a different side



Grandfather, Father, & Son

The Three Anson Phelps Stokes:

Anglo-American Philanthropists



My interest in Anson Phelps Stokes grew out of the 1928 Introduction written by Anson Phelps Stokes for Monroe Nathan Works Bibliography of the Negro. I went online in hope of finding a biography and photo of the man. And I found nearly nothing that made sense. It became clear that there were more than one Anson Phelps Stokes — a father and son who had the same name. And then I discovered that there was an Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr. I thought that this junior was the same fellow that wrote the introduction for the bibliography. But then I discovered this photo above (right) of an Anson Phelps Stokes who was the eleventh Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts (1956-1970).

It thus seemed impossible that this Anson was the same Anson that had written the 1911 letter to Booker T. Washington, nor could have he been the man that Henry Louis Gates had mentioned who attempted to organized the publication of an Encyclopedia of the Negro in 1931. I finally discovered that there were three Anson Phelps Stokes. The Diocesan Library and Archives (of The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts) finally sent me Anson Phelps Stokes (the father) image above which was copied from The Berkshire Eagle (August 14, 1958). This article at Stokes’ death recalled his accomplishment and contributions to American society.

Anson I

The first Anson Phelps Stokes (1838-1913), born in New York City, was a merchant, banker, publicist, and multimillionaire. He was the son of John Boulter and Caroline (Phelps) Stokes. He was brother of William Earl Dodge Stokes and Olivia Egleston Phelps Stokes. His grandfather was the London merchant Thomas Stokes, one of the thirteen founders of the London Missionary Society and later an active supporter of the American Bible Society, the American Tract Society and the American peace Society.

A man of pronounced piety and a promoter of benevolent enterprises, Anson Phelps Stokes was also the grandson of Anson Greene Phelps and a descendant of George Phelps who emigrated from Gloucestershire, England to Dorchester, Massachusetts about 1630. His immediate ancestors were noted for their business ability, religious civic, and philanthropic interests.

As a boy he entered the employ of the family business Phelps, Dodge & Company, a mercantile establishment founded by his grandfather. In 1861, he became a partner and also a member of the firm of Phelps, James & Company, Liverpool. In 1879, he organized he organized the firm of Phelps, Stokes & Company, bankers.

On October 17, 1865, Anson Phelps Stokes married Helen Louisa, daughter of Isaac Newton Phelps. Obviously, the two were cousins. At the time of his death in New York City, fifteen years after he lost one of his legs, Anson Phelps Stokes was survived by four sons and five daughters.

Anson II

The second Anson Phelps Stokes (1874-1958), born in New Brighton on Staten Island, was am educator and clergyman. He was the son of multimillionaire banker Anson Phelps Stokes and Helen Louisa Phelps.  After his graduation from Yale in 1896 with a B.A. degree, the younger Anson traveled mostly in the Far East. In 1897 Anson the Younger entered the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts to prepare for the priesthood, which he entered formally in 1925. 

Granted an honorary M.A. in 1900 as he received his bachelor of divinity degree, Stokes agreed a year earlier (1899) to serve as secretary of Yale University, second in command after the president.

 He also served as assistant rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in New Have (1900-19180.

Stokes was resident canon (1924-1939) at the National Cathedral (Episcopal) in Washington, D.C.. During his time in the nation’s capital he was involved in numerous and varied social, cultural, and ecclesiastical causes. During this period. he guided the philanthropy of the Phelps Stokes Fund (established in 1911) toward the improving the lives of African and American blacks. In 1936, Stokes published a brief biography of Booker T. Washington, which was an extension of an earlier sketch he had done for the Dictionary of American Biography

Stokes saw all of his work as “fellowship in the gospel” (Philemon 1:5). He died in his Lenox. Massachusetts home after a long illness.

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Relevant Anson Phelps Stokes Bibliography

Anson Phelps Stokes. Tuskegee Institute–The First Fifty Years (1931).

Anson Phelps Stokes. Art and the Color Line: An Appeal made May 31, 1939 to the President General and Other Officers of the Daughters of the American Revolution to Modify the Rules so as to Permit Distinguish Negro Artists such as Marian Anderson to be Heard in Constitution Hall. Washington, 1939.

Encyclopedia of the Negro; preparatory volume with reference lists and reports. by W. E. B. Du Bois and Guy B. Johnson prepared with the cooperation of E. Irene Diggs, Agnes C. L. Donohugh, Guion Johnson, et all. Introduction by Anson Phelps Stokes. New York: The Phelps-Stokes Fund, Inc., 1946.

Phelps-Stokes, Anson, et al. Negro Status and Race Relations in the United States, 1911-1946; the Thirty-Five Year Report of the Phelps-Stokes Fund. New York: Phelps-Stokes Fund, 1948.

Anson Phelps Stokes, Church and State in the United States. Three volumes. (1950).

An Addendum to Anson II. Part of my confusion on the three Ansoms was caused by an online letter published by the University of Illinois Press to Booker T. Washington. Though the letter is signed “Anson Phelps Stokes,” the editor places above this November 2, 1911 letter “From Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr.” Of course, that would have been an impossibility in that Junior was only six years old. However the contents of the letter are important:


New Haven, Conn. November 2, 1911

My dear Mr. Washington: I enclose herewith for your confidential information a proposal which I expect to bring before the Phelps-Stokes Trustees at their next meeting. You will see that it is an attempt to help in the solution of the negro problem from a different side than has been emphasized in the past, namely by training at a great Southern university a group of Southern white students who will investigate the negro and his problems with the view to assisting in improving conditions. I have talked the matter over carefully with Dr. Dillard and Dr. Aldermen who feel that the plan is a very important one. I would appreciate your estimate of it and any suggestion that you may make regarding it. If successful I hope we may be able to establish a similar fellowship with result in accomplishing three purposes.

First. the mere existence of the fellowship at a Southern white university under state auspices will be significant.

Second. The researches of these fellows should result in bringing together a body of facts regarding the negro that will be of material assistance in solving his problem.

Third. the fellows should form a body of men who would be of great assistance in the future in leading in various educational and sociological movements in the South. very truly yours,

Anson Phelps Stokes

Anson III

Born in New Haven, Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr. (1905-1986), son of Anson Phelps and Carol G. (Mitchell) Stokes, was a clergyman, ordained a priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1933.. He received his BA from Yale in 1927; BD, Episcopal Theological Seminary, Cambridge; DD, Kenyon College, 1953; STD, Columbia, 1954, Berkley Divinity School, New Haven, 1962, Suffolk University, 1968. 

Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr. rose to become Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts (1956-1970). Like his father, he too became a Trustee of the Phelps Stokes Fund (New York).

His home was in Brookline, Massachusetts. he died November 7, 1986

Caroline Phelps Stokes (1854-1909), American philanthropist, was the sister of Anson Phelps Stokes (1838-1913). She endowed the Phelps-Stokes Fund for the underprivileged. She was also author of Travels of a Lady’s Maid (1908).

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