WASHINGTON: A Journey Through the Alley Communities of the Nation's
Performed: February 2001
Hidden Washington brings to life the alley communities
of Washington, DC, where people lived, worked, played and worshiped.
This interesting and little known period in the history of our nation's
capital will be presented through song, dance, and children's games,
and also through the historic collections of the Library of Congress
including manuscripts, photographs, period newspapers, and maps.
Our partner in this program, The
Washington Revels, is dedicated, through performance, community
involvement and education to reviving, nourishing and promoting
celebrations of the cyclical renewal of life that have drawn and
bound people together through the ages and across cultures.
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Guide [PDF: 2.47MB]
Nannie Helen Burroughs | Mary
Church Terrell | Resrouces for Teachers
I 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 Alley.
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 she served.
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Mary Church Terrell
was born on September 26,1863 in Memphis, Tennessee. My father,
a self-educated former slave, became a millionaire investing in
real estate. When I was six years old my parents sent me to the
Antioch College Model School in Yellow Springs, Ohio for my elementary
and secondary education.
I then enrolled in nearby Oberlin College, where I received a Bachelor's
degree in 1884. In 1887 I moved to Washington, D.C. to teach at
the M Street High School. After receiving a Master's degree from
Oberlin in 1888, I toured Europe to study languages.
returned from abroad in 1891 to marry Robert Terrell, my supervisor
at the M Street High School. Robert later became the first Black
Judge of the District of Columbia Municipal Court.
In the late nineteenth century thousands of African Americans
in the rural South, many poor and uneducated, began to move to cities
across the country seeking opportunities. In response to this mass
migration educated middle-class African American women in cities
organized service-oriented clubs dedicated to racial advancement.
1892 I founded the Colored Woman's League of Washington, D.C., one
of the first black women's clubs. Comprised primarily of teachers,
the Colored Woman's League focused on the educational development
of disadvantaged African American women and children. The League
established an evening classes for adults, a program to train kindergarten
teachers, and a free kindergarten and day nursery for the children
of working mothers.
The League started a training program and a kindergarten before
these were incorporated in the Washington public school system.
success of the League's educational initiatives led to my appointment
to the District of Columbia Board of Education in 1895. I was the
first Black woman in the United States to serve in this type of
In 1896 I became the founder and first president of the National
Association of Colored Women, a national organization of black women's
clubs. Working through this and other organizations I tried to promote
the welfare of my race and the empowerment of Black women.
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Resources for Teachers:
American Anthropologist. Vol.1 "Games of Washington
Children." July 1888. Pages 243-284.
Bicknell, Grace Vawter. The Inhabited Alleys of Washington,
D.C. Committee on Housing, Woman's Welfare Department, 1912
Borchert, James. Alley Life in Washington: Family, Community,
Religion, and Folklife in the City, 1850-1970. Chicago, IL and
London, England: University of Illinois Press, 1980
Easter, Opal V. Nannie Helen Burroughs. Garland Publishing,
Inc., New York & London, 1995
Frankel, Godfrey. In the Alleys, Kids in the Shadow of The Capital.
Washington, D.C. and London, England: Smithsonian Institution Press,
Green, Constance McLaughlin. The Secret City; A History of Race
Relations in the Nation's Capitol. Princeton, N.J., Princeton
University Press, 1967. xv, 389 p. illus., ports. 23 cm.
Ibid. Washington. Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press,
1962-63. 2 v. illus. 25 cm.
House of Representatives, Sixty-Third Congress, Second Session
on H.R. 13219. Hearing Before the Committee on the District of
Columbia. Certain Alleys in the District of Columbia. Government
Printing Office, 1914
Johnston, Allan. Surviving Freedom, The Black Community of
Washington, D.C. 1860-1880. New York and London: Garland Publishing,
Jones, Dr. Thomas Jesse. Directory of the Inhabited Alleys
of Washington D.C. Printed Through the Generosity of Mrs. Medill
McCormick, Mrs. William Belden Noble and Mrs. John Van Schaick,
The Junior League of The City of Washington. The City of Washington.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1997
Library of Congress. Teachers Page <www.loc.gov/teachers>.
Library of Congress. Discovering Hidden Washington Home Page
Sluby, Paul E. Jr. Rosemont Cemetery. Washington, D.C.:
Columbian Harmony Society, 1993
Subcommittee of the Committee on the District of Columbia, United
States Senate, Sixty-Third Congress, Second Session on Senate Bills
1624, 2376, 2397, 2580, 4529, and 4672. Inhabited Alleys in the
District of Columbia and Housing of Unskilled Workingmen. Government
Print Office, 1914.
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