African-American Elks with Boy Scouts

What it is:

Snapshot measuring 5 x 3.5 inches.

What I know about it:

Undated and unidentified, but I know from other photos in my collection that the man in the front left (in black suit and fez) is William Baum.


I was in the mood for something newer today, and I’ve always liked the spirit of this one, so I thought I’d share it.  This photo is from the estate of Dorothy Baum, a photo of whom I posted previously, and the William Baum pictured here was her husband.  (The smokin’ hot troop leader remains, sadly, unidentified.)  Mr. Baum was heavily involved in the “Negro Elks”, an organization founded in 1898 for blacks who were banned from the then all-white Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (B.P.O.E.).  It used the same rituals and traditions, which didn’t please the white Elks any, but it prevailed and, if my photos are any indication, thrived.  When I was a Boy Scout I remember going to the local Elks Lodge to present the color guard at one of their meetings, so there is a tradition of this sort of inter-organizational fellowship.  (I peeked through the door at the supposedly secret part of their meeting, and when they said to give “the sign”, I swear they touched their thumbs to their heads and wiggled their fingers like antlers.  I’m shocked they didn’t hear me laugh.  Sorry if that sounds disrespectful, but it was just too daffy.)  The Boy Scouts of America, meanwhile, were open to all races, though they tended to self-segregate because individual troops frequently reflected the membership of the organizations (churches, civic groups, etc.) that sponsored them.  In other words, if a black church started a Boy Scout troop, it would likely end up with a bunch of black Boy Scouts, though in theory any boy could join.  I’m not sure what this building is.  A second photo that I have of the same building doesn’t give a better answer.  A church?  A community hall?  The Elks Lodge?  Did both organizations meet here, or was one (or both) visiting?  I also don’t know where this building is.  The Baums were based for much of this time in Connecticut, but they got around a lot, and I have pictures of them from Boston to North Carolina.  But whenever this is, and wherever they are, they represent a bit of hope for the future.

6 comments on “African-American Elks with Boy Scouts”

  1. Perhaps the Elks Lodge sponsored the Boy Scout troop.

  2. I hope that you post more photos of the Baums! I really like this photo, as well as the Daughters of Isis (beautiful ladies!) one! I also agree with you about the troop leader! : )

  3. My dad John K. Cameron Sr. was a past exalted ruler of the Elks Lodge located at 43rd. St., and Vernon Ave. in Chicago, Illinois. Have a picture of him in his “Past Exalted Ruler garb” He recited the poem “Thanatopsis” annually(too young to recall the event. Glad some of the brotherhood is still active. The Elks have been good to me and my mother and sister thru-out the years, prior to their de-activation. God bless the Elks of America

    • Hi Nona. Thanks for your comment. It’s always fun to hear from people who have some personal connection to the photos I post. Those sound like some good memories.

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