Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
Wendell Phillips Memorial Scholarship, 1896
The Wendell Phillips Memorial Scholarship is one of two scholarships (the other being assigned to Harvard College)which was established in 1896 by the Wendell Phillips Memorial Fund Association in honor of Boston's greatest preacher and orator. The scholarship is given annually to the junior or senior who has best demonstrated both marked ability as a speaker and a high sense of public responsibility. The recipient of the scholarship traditionally gives an address at commencement. Candidates for this award are recommended by the Committee on Student Life and are chosen through a series of public speeches presented at a campus-wide event.
Wendell Phillips was born in Boston on November 29, 1811, graduated from Harvard in 1831, and went to Harvard Law School. He passed the bar in 1834 but soon concentrated his energies on the fight against slavery and left his professional practice in 1839. He became a public figure and the chief of American orators with his Faneuil Hall speech of Decembe r 8, 1837. In that speech, he rebuked the Massachusetts attorney general for having just derided E. P. Lovejoy, who had been murdered for defending freedom of the press against a pro-slavery mob in Alton, Illinois. Pointing to the portraits in the hall he said, "When I heard the gentleman lay down principles which placed the rioters, incendiaries and murderers of Alton side by side with Otis and Hancock, with Quincy and Adams, I thought these pictured lips would have broken into voice to rebuke the recreant American, the slanderer of the dead."
He fought to keep the abolitionist movement open to participants of all faiths, and when slavery was finally abolished, continued the struggle for the education and enfranchisement of blacks. In 1870, after passage of the fifteenth amendment, he turned to the causes of native Americans and the Irish, and he worked for women's suffrage, improvements of criminal law and prison administration, as well as the regulation of liquor sales.
As an orator he is placed with Daniel Webster and Edward Everett, and he changed the style of American oratory from rounded sonority to the easier colloquial style of modern day speechmaking. He died in Boston on February 2, 1884.
Source: BTU[Arts and Sciences/Engineering]; 100H