| Special Presentation - Nannie Helen Burroughs |
was born on May 2 1879 in Orange, Virginia. When I was five my widowed
mother bought me to Washington, D.C. in pursuit of a better education.
At the M Street High School I excelled under the guidance of dedicated
teachers like Mary Church Terrell, graduating with honors in 1896.
At the time, African American women were basically limited to two employment
options: domestic service or teaching. My mother, like the majority of
African American women in cities, worked as a domestic servant. The work
domestic servants performed maintaining homes was considered unskilled
labor; and therefore, paid low wages. As a result, many African American
domestic servants and their families lived in poverty in places like Shepherd
wanted to become a domestic science teacher so that I could offer these
women professional training that might help them earn a higher salary
and afford better living conditions. Despite my qualifications, I was
denied a teaching job because of the color of my skin. The pain of that
disappointment inspired me to eventually establish a school that would
give all sorts of girls a fair chance.
In the meantime, I did find a job in Philadelphia as an assistant editor
for a Baptist newspaper. In 1900 I moved to Louisville, Kentucky to work
as a secretary for the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention,
then the largest organization of African American clergymen. Later that
year at the annual meeting of the National Baptist Convention in Richmond,
I argued for the right of women to participate equally in the missionary
activities of the denomination in a speech entitled, "How the Sisters
are Hindered from Helping." As a result of my speech, the Woman's
Convention, Auxiliary to the National Baptist Convention was organized.
Woman's Convention primarily worked to raise money for the missions, which
provided food, clothing, housing, and educational opportunities for poor
people in the United States and around the world. As the Corresponding
Secretary and President of the Woman's Convention for over sixty years,
I publicized their cause nationwide in letters, articles, and speeches.
After many years of persistent effort, I was able to convince the National
Baptist Convention and Woman's Convention to endorse the establishment
of my school. For the site, I chose a farm house on six acres of land
in the Lincoln Heights section of Washington. On October 19, 1909 I opened
the doors of the National Training School for Women and Girls.
curriculum emphasized vocational training, offering classes in domestic
science, missionary work, social work, home nursing, clerical work, printing,
dressmaking, beauty culture, shoe repair, and agriculture. There were
also classes in grammar, English literature, Latin, drama, public speaking,
music, and physical education. I also required all of my student to take
a course in Black history. At the core of the curriculum was the study
of the Bible. Nannie called her School the School of the "Three Bs
the Bible, The Bath, and The Broom."
|In 1975, Mayor Walter E. Washington proclaimed May 10
to be Nannie Helen Burroughs Day in the District of Columbiaa
fitting tribute to a remarkable woman who enriched the lives of all