February is Black History Month. Here at Possip we know the importance of elevating voices and stories. This is why all month long we’re going to share stories of Black educators, community leaders, and other advocates who have shaped the education landscape.
To kick-off this Black History Month, here are three Black educators who changed education forever.
1. Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987)
Septima Clark taught at South Carolina schools for more than 30 years before devoting herself to grassroots education during the Civil Rights Movement. Clark lost her job in 1956 for refusing to resign from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
After that, Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee hired her as the Director of Workshops. Clark led workshops in basic literary skills, citizenship, and voter registrations because she believed education and political empowerment were connected.
Rosa Parks attended one of Clark’s workshops, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. named her the “Mother of the Movement”.
2. Fannie C. Williams (1882-1980)
Fannie Williams spent her career as a teacher and principal advocating for the holistic development of African-American children in the South.
As principal of Valena C. Jones School in New Orleans, Williams established a health program and Child Health Day on May 1, which is now nationally celebrated in the month of October.
Williams made other significant contributions to African-American children’s education, including establishing the first preschool and Kindergarten in New Orleans. She also used standardized testing within her school to measure students’ success. This was before the New Orleans School Board required testing in all schools.
3. Edmund Gordon (1921- )
A modern-day educator and Black leader, Dr. Edmund Gordon has devoted his career to advocating for low-income students.
Gordon is a Professor of Psychology at Yale University, but he is known best for helping create the Head Start program in 1965 under Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency. Head Start provides education, nutrition, and family support services to low-income families.
More recently, Gordon formed The Gordon Commission to analyze K-12 assessment practices and recommend the best methods for measuring student achievement.
Black Educators Who Shaped Education (And History)
These are just three of the Black educators who shaped education and history. Check back with the Possip blog throughout February to hear more inspiring stories!