Skip to main content

Channing Tobias papers

Identifier: Y.USA.7


The papers include news clippings, articles, speeches, correspondence, reports, and other records documenting Tobias's work with the YMCA, the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, and other organizations, primarily in the area of race relations. Records of the YMCA's "Colored Work" Department, of which Tobias was senior secretary from 1923 to 1946, include minutes, correspondence, surveys, reports, and material from several conferences, including the 1923 YMCA Constitutional Convention. Federal Council of Churches material dates from the World War II era and includes minutes, reports, and correspondence relating to that organization's response to racism and other post-war social problems.


  • 1911-1961.


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


Channing Heggie Tobias was born 1 February 1882 in Augusta, Georgia, the second child and only son of Fair and Belle (Robinson) Tobias. He was educated in the public schools of Augusta, and went on to earn a B.A. from Paine College in 1902, a B.D. from Drew Theological Seminary in 1905, and did special work at the University of Pennsylvania. Gammon Theological Seminary (Atlanta, Geo.) conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1924.

Most of Tobias's career was devoted to the YMCA. He joined that organization in 1911, after a six year stint as professor of bible literature at his alma mater, Paine College, serving for twelve years as student secretary of the International Committee of the YMCA. He was appointed as senior secretary of the YMCA's "Colored Work" Department in September 1923, a position he held until 1946, when the YMCA abolished separate programs for Black men. During these twenty three years, he also held a number of other YMCA positions relating to race relations, including member of the Executive Committee of the National Interracial Conference and associate director of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation. He was a delegate and a speaker at the 1926 World Conference in Finland, and traveled to YMCAs throughout the world during his career. After leaving the YMCA in 1946, he became the first Black director of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, a foundation devoted to the improvement of educational opportunities for African Americans. He retired in 1953.

In addition to his extensive work through the YMCA movement, Tobias held numerous civic and volunteer positions in the area of race relations. During World War II, he was a member of the National Advisory Committee on Selective Service and the Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation. President Truman appointed him to the Committee on Civil Rights in 1946. He was also a member of the Board of Trustees of the NAACP and elected its chairman in 1953. In 1953, he was alternate representative to the United Nations for the United States. He served on the boards of the Marshall Filed and Jessie Smith Noyes Foundations, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, the American Bible Society, Hampton Institute, and Palmer Memorial Institute. He received numerous awards in recognition of his work, including the 1948 Spingarn Medal, awarded annually to an African American for distinguished achievement.

Tobias married Mary Pritchard in 1908. The couple had two daughters. After the death of his first wife in 1949, Tobias married Eva Arnold in 1951. He died on 5 November 1961 after a long illness.


2 Cubic Feet (5 boxes)


Papers of Channing H. Tobias, who served as senior secretary of the YMCA's Colored Work Department from 1924 to 1946, documenting his work in the area of race relations.


The following related materials are separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives:

Colored Work Department records, 1871-1946: Includes additional material documenting Tobias's work as senior secretary (1923-1946) of the YMCA's Colored Work Department which was, until 1946, the avenue through which services were provided by and for African Americans at the national level.

Biographical Files: Additional material on Channing Tobias may be found in the YMCA Archives' series of biographical files, including biographical sketches published in YMCA and other publications, newspaper articles, obituaries (including a eulogy by Benjamin Mays) and correspondence relating to a biographical project on Tobias during the 1950s and 1960s.

Note on Language in the Collection and this Guide

Please note that some of the descriptive language found in this collection guide reflects and re-uses the words and ideas of the people and organizations that created the material. Historical records represent the opinions and actions of their creators and the society in which they were produced. This historical language was retained in cases where we believe it provides important context about the materials, is a Library of Congress Subject Heading, or is the official title of an item, organization, or event. As such, please be aware that this material and the guide describing it contains racial and other language and/or imagery that is outdated, offensive and/or harmful.

Processing Information:

This material was formerly cataloged as part of the YMCA Archives Biographical Files. Re-processed by: Lara Friedman~Shedlov, November 2003.

Catalog Record ID number: 4304756

An Inventory of His Papers
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman~Shedlov.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2021-11-30: Language was changed to reflect more current and respectful terminology and conventions, e.g. capitalization of the word "Black" in reference to people.Text was also updated to more clearly indicate when harmful/outdated language is being quoted from original sources for historical purposes, vs. supplied by the Archives.

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area