A Forgotten Sisterhood: Pioneering Black Women Educators and by Audrey Thomas McCluskey

By Audrey Thomas McCluskey

Emerging from the darkness of the slave period and Reconstruction, black activist ladies Lucy Craft Laney, Mary McLeod Bethune, Charlotte Hawkins Brown, and Nannie Helen Burroughs based colleges geared toward freeing African-American formative years from deprived futures within the segregated and decidedly unequal South. From the past due 19th via mid-twentieth centuries, those members fought discrimination as contributors of a bigger circulate of black girls who uplifted destiny generations via a spotlight on schooling, social provider, and cultural transformation. Born loose, yet with the shadow of the slave prior nonetheless implanted of their recognition, Laney, Bethune, Brown, and Burroughs outfitted off each one other’s successes and realized from every one other’s struggles as directors, teachers, and suffragists. Drawing from the women’s personal letters and writings approximately academic tools and from remembrances of surviving scholars, Audrey Thomas McCluskey unearths the pivotal importance of this sisterhood’s legacy for later generations and for the establishment of schooling itself.

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Washington, The Story of the Negro: The Rise of the Race from Slavery, vol. 2 (New York: Doubleday, page 1909, reprinted by Negro Universities Press, 1969), 308. 54. W. E. B. Du Bois, Crisis 13, no. 6 (April 1917): 269. Du Bois may have aimed his derisive comment at Charles T. Walker, a prominent Augusta educator and devoted follower of Booker T. Washington. 55. McCluskey and Smith, Building a Better World, 50. 56. Audrey T. McCluskey, “‘We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible’: Black Women School Founders and Their Mission,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 22, no.

Anderson, Education of Blacks, 328. 64. Bacote, Story of Atlanta University, 2. 65. p. 66. p. 67. W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1903), 121–39 68. Lucy C. Laney, “General Conditions of Mortality,” in the Atlanta University Papers Series, ed. W. E. B. Du Bois (Atlanta: Atlanta University, 1896): 35–37. 69. Lucy C. Laney, “Address Before the Women’s Meeting,” Second Annual Atlanta University Conference Proceedings, 1897 (New York: Arno Press, 1968), 56. 70. Britt Edward Cottingham, “The Burden of the Educated Colored Woman: Lucy Laney and the Haines Institute, 1886–1933,” (master’s thesis, Georgia State University, 1995), 79.

50 In her letter of nomination, she asked the organization to “please look up Miss Lucy Laney’s work. . [S]he has done a wonderful job in inspiring young people . . [and] splendid work in the field of education through the years. I wish her to have this public recognition for she worked so unselfishly, but she works quietly. . ” 51 Laney did not receive this national award, but was recognized with honorary degrees from black universities attended by many Haines graduates, including recognition by Atlanta University in 1898, Lincoln University in 1904, and South Carolina State in 1925.

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