Scott, Emmett Jay (1873–1957)

By: Barbara L. Green

Type: Biography

Published: June 1, 1995

Updated: September 28, 2020

Emmett Jay Scott, Black author, editor, and civic leader, was born in Houston on February 13, 1873, one of four children of Horace L. and Emma (Kyle) Scott. He was raised as a Methodist and attended Wiley College, a Methodist-supported school for Blacks, from 1887 to 1890, when he dropped out to give the other members of the family the same educational opportunities he had had. Scott later returned to Wiley and was awarded a master of arts degree in 1901. In 1918 he was awarded an LL.D. by Wiley College and Wilberforce University (Ohio). As a young man, Scott held various jobs, including serving on the staff of the Houston Daily Post between 1891 and 1894. His experience at the Post enabled him to help in founding the Houston Texas Freeman, which he edited from 1894 to 1897. In 1897 Booker T. Washington spoke in Houston at Scott's invitation. That year Scott accepted an invitation from Washington to become his private secretary. The move to Tuskegee marked the beginning of an eighteen-year relationship that lasted until Washington's death in 1915. During these years Scott became Washington's chief adviser, confidant, and even ghostwriter. Scott served as the Tuskegee Institute secretary from 1912 to 1919.

Serving as Washington's secretary paved the way for an outstanding career in public service for Scott. In 1902 Washington used his influence to have Scott appointed secretary of the National Negro Business League, a post he held until 1922. Scott was subsequently appointed a member of the American Commission to Liberia in 1909 by President William H. Taft and secretary to the International Conference on the Negro in 1912. On October 15, 1917, as a result of mounting racial tension and the continued lynching problem, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker appointed Scott his special assistant to urge the equal and impartial application of Selective Service regulations, to improve the morale of Black servicemen, and to investigate racial incidents and charges of unfair treatment. After World War I Scott was invited to serve as secretary-treasurer of Howard University; he served in that capacity from 1919 to 1934. During World War II he was personnel director for the Sun Shipbuilding Company in Chester, Pennsylvania. Many Black laborers worked in this company's Yard Number Four during World War II. From 1922 until shortly before his death, Scott was active in the Republican party as a campaigner and publicist for Republican national conventions.

He was also a successful writer. His works include Booker T. Washington: Builder of a Civilization (1916), which he coauthored with Lyman Beecher Stowe; Scott's Official History of the American Negro in the World War (1919); and Negro Migration During the War (1920). Scott was married to Eleanora J. Baker of Houston on April 14, 1897. They were the parents of five children, four of whom survived Scott. On December 11, 1957, Scott died at Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D.C., after a long illness.

John Hope Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans (New York: Knopf, 1980). Louis R. Harlan, Booker T. Washington: The Making of a Black Leader, 1856–1901 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972). Louis R. Harlan, Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901–1915 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983). W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981). Emmett Jay Scott Papers, Special Collections, Soper Library, Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland.

  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Authors and Writers
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Activists
  • Civic Leaders
  • Journalism
Time Periods:
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Barbara L. Green, “Scott, Emmett Jay,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 13, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995
September 28, 2020

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