James E. Stamps, one of five pivotal founders of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASALH), was born on March 6, 1890, in Marlin, Texas, to Perry A. Stamps and Mabel Myers, both born in slavery. He had two brothers and one sister, Seth, Perry, and Willie Mae. James Stamps received an AB degree in economics from Fisk University in 1911 and an AM degree in economics from Yale University in 1913.
Stamps worked as an accountant for Anthony Overton, a black businessman who had moved his company from Kansas City to Chicago two years before hiring Stamps in 1913. In 1915, Stamps happened to be in Washington, DC, for a conference, and Carter G. Woodson, who had recently earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1912, invited him to speak to a gathering of black history enthusiasts in August, 1915 about the plight of African Americans and the importance of preserving their history, culture, and traditions. Besides Woodson, three other men were in attendance, William B. Hargrove, George Cleveland Hall, and A. L. Jackson.
The five, Woodson, Hargrove, Hall, Jackson, and Stamps met again in Chicago on September 9, 1915 and founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The Association’s goal was to address the situation facing Black people in the U.S. and to document Black achievement. Woodson asked Stamps to work on the first publication of The Journal of Negro History on January 1, 1916, which was and still is the official publication of the ASALH.
On October 4, 1916, Stamps married Georgia Morrow from Chicago. However, they traveled to Harris County, Texas, to hold the ceremony. They had two children, James Jr. and Georgia.
Upon Stamps’ return to Chicago, he was assigned to spearhead the publication The Half-Century, which at the time was the companion to The Journal of Negro History. While the Journal told the history of African Americans, the Half-Century focused on contemporary political and racial concerns.
In 1917, the Association host its first biennial convention, bringing together from across the U.S. African Americans who promoted black history in their local communities. The convention assumed the responsibility of promoting black history nationally by publishing a historical magazine (the Journal), researching the achievements of African Americans and directing home study programs that would concentrate on writing history, publishing monographs, and retrieving and disseminating relevant data about Black people both in the U.S. and globally.
In 1920, Stamps and Georgia Morrow divorced, and he remarried for a second time to Maurice Williams. During the 1920s, he managed the Chicago Metropolitan Assurance Company, worked as Secretary for the Black YMCA in Chicago and continued his activities with the ASALH. On March 26, 1931, for example Stamps was visible and vocal at the YMCA’s World Conference against Racism and Segregation.
In 1940, Stamps retired as the Vice President of Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan, now GN (Groupe Nduom) Bank.
A member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, James E. Stamps, died in Chicago, Illinois, on October 30, 1972, at the age of 82.