Each February we celebrate Black History Month to honor the African American men and women who have made our world a better place. These are 10 of those amazing men and women who you may not have heard of but have made many differences in our world of education today.
- Carter Woodson
Carter Woodson has been referred to as the “Father of Black History” and is who we credit with establishing Black History Month. He was only the second Black man to receive a doctorate degree from Harvard University. He worked as a principal and then eventually became the dean of Howard University. Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History which launched “Black History Week.” Eventually this was lengthened to what we know today as Black History Month.
- Carlotta Walls LaNier
Carlotta Walls LaNair was the youngest of the Little Rock 9, the 9 Black students who integrated Little Rock Central High School, in 1957. She was incredibly brave at just 15 years old. She took her studies seriously after this and went on to receive her bachelor’s degree at University of Northern Colorado. LaNair later became the President of the Little Rock Nine Foundation. This was a scholarship organization that ensured equal access to education for African Americans.
- Kelly Miller
Kelly Miller was a man of many “firsts.” He was the first Black man to attend John Hopkins University and then later became the first Black Professor of Sociology at Howard University. Miller eventually became the dean of Howard’s College of Arts and Science and was known for his hard work in recruiting students by touring the southern states.
- Hallie Quinn Brown
Hallie Quinn Brown earned her degree in Ohio and then continued to teach at schools all over the south in the late 1800’s. She taught in South Carolina, Mississippi, and then became the Dean of Women at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Even when she retired, Brown was still very active in education and was the president of multiple organizations. She also “founded a scholarship for women’s education in the 1880s, helping inject women into academia.”
- Fannie Williams
Fannie Williams was the first Black woman to graduate from a teacher college called Brockport Normal School (now called SUNY Brockport). She then went to Washington D.C. and all though she endured lots of discrimination, she perservered and was a teacher there. Later, she stopped teaching and became very involved in Civil Rights and founded the National League Of Colored Women.
- Marva Collins
Marva Collins started her career in Alabama by teaching “typing, bookkeeping, and business law at Monroe County Training School.” She took a brief time off from teaching but then returned to teach in Chicago. She was frustrated with how the schools were run so she decided to open her own. In 1975, Collins opened “Westside Preparatory School” in her home. She started with around 20 students and grew the school to about 200 students.
- Edmund Gordon
Edmund Gordon was asked by former President Johnson’s team to help organize an experiment with poverty in early childhood education. This research resulted in the widely known program called Head Start. Gordon also did significant research that helped “prove to the Supreme Court that school segregation had harmful effects on children.”
- Fanny Coppin
Fanny Coppin was born a slave but was later bought by an Aunt and eventually attended Oberlin College. She was the “first Black person to be chosen to be a pupil teacher there.” Coppin got a job at a school in Philadelphia and four years later became the head Principal. It was here that she “expanded the curriculum to include an Industrial Department, established a Women’s Industrial Exchange to display the mechanical and artistic works of young women, and founded a Home for Girls and Young Women to house workers from out of town.”
- Philip L. Brown
Phillip Brown started teaching in a Maryland school system when he was just 19 years old. He formed the Colored Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County and “led the effort to sue the Anne Arundel Board of Education for equal pay for African American teachers.” Brown continued his teaching career and even became a Vice Principal. He eventually wrote a book titled A Century of Separate But Equal Education in Anne Arundel County.
- Jeanne L. Noble
Jeanne Noble earned her doctorate from Columbia University and then began teaching at N.Y.U. She helped plan “Women’s Jobs Corps” under President Johnson and then was appointed by both President Nixon and President Ford as a part of the National Education Commissions. Noble continued her work in education and in 1970 she won a “regional Emmy Award for writing and moderating the CBS television program The Learning Experience.”This just highlights a few of the many Black men and women who have helped break barriers for future generations of African Americans in education. Their work has made a great deal of difference in the education world and it continues to be impactful today. For more educational resources, check out our Educational Resources page.