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"Breaking Barriers: The Impact of African American Pioneers in Education"


Today, I will discuss something that's really painful for me to write about. It's wild; there is so much history, yet little is being taught about the African American contribution to education.


From the 17th century to the Civil War, from the Western deserts to World Wars, African Americans have served as pioneers, warriors, and fighters for their right to liberty, citizenship, and, most essentially, the right to education and access to quality schooling. Through their sacrifice, perseverance, and determination, we have made strides toward equality in the education sphere today.


Let's take a few minutes to recognize African Americans and their invaluable efforts in education.


William Edward Burghardt Du Bois

I'll start with one of the greatest black scholars and activists the world has ever seen. Meet one and only William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, the man who changed the course of black history forever.


He was born on February 23, 1968, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, to Mary Silvina Burghardt Du Bois and Alfred Du Bois, facing hardships from childhood. Dubois' parents passed away before he had a chance to live his life alongside them, leaving him to fight for himself.


Dubois was the only colored student who graduated from high school in 1884. His attendance at Fisk University was crucial, as it exposed him to different cultures and backgrounds, shaping his views on diversity and inclusivity. "I want to raise my race," he vowed.


He pioneered the Niagara Movement with a group of black professionals, which eventually merged with the NAACP in 1909. Realizing that the fight for equality should extend beyond American borders, Dubois organized the first Pan-African Congress in Paris in 1919 and established similar congresses in other cities, such as Brussels, London, and New York City.

His efforts paved the way for future activists and leaders to fight for full equality and representation for African Americans and all other Americans. His legacy continues today.


Ramona Edelin

In the 1970s, African American teachers and youth in urban settings had a powerful ally in Ramona Edelin, who was born and raised in California in 1945. Ramona saw the inequities in urban education, especially for African American educators. Nobody advocated for their right to support, training, and recognition.


After becoming president of the National Urban Coalition, Ramona launched "Say Yes to A Youngster's Future," which was eventually supported by the US Department of Education.

Under her leadership, over two hundred schools have benefited from this initiative, which aimed to tackle issues like education, community empowerment, and young adult leadership development. She continues this work today as executive director of the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools.


Rmona's legacy is continued through programs such as the Executive Leadership Program and the M. Carl Holman Leadership Development Institute. These initiatives focus on increasing leadership opportunities for African-American individuals in educational organizations and beyond.


Without people like Ramona Edelin, the fight for equity in education and support for underrepresented communities would not be where it is today.


Octavius Catto

Meet Octavius Catto - a brilliant Black activist dedicated his life to education. He excelled in school, graduating at the top of his class and later becoming a teacher, fighting against segregation and discriminatory laws. One of his biggest battles was for the right to vote, which tragically led to his murder. Even though he is no longer with us, Catto's legacy inspires generations.


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Meet The Author

Sheika Petteway, Chief ENCOURAGING Officer

She provides educational and leadership training to individuals and organizations. She is the founder and CEO of Elite Educational Enterprises and has several years experience serving in the early childhood education industry.


Text the word "mentor" to 855-691-1749 to receive encouraging messages monthly.

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