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7 Remarkable Pioneers That Made An Impact On The History of Education In America

September is here which means that school is in session! How bout we take a learning trip ourselves in honor of the new school year to learn about a few pioneers in the history of education in America! 

We have all been to school and we understand how it works. 

But, have you ever thought about what had to happen in order for the educational system to be what it is today? 

There were many years where some people were not given the same educational opportunities as white males. 

Many years ago women were not expected to go to school and people of color were not accepted in society, so of course, they were not welcomed in schools at the time. 

Nowadays, every child is promised an education in America no matter if you are a different gender, race, religion, or sexuality! 

Although everyone has the right to education, people of color still were not provided the same opportunities as other citizens. 

So, in this article, you’ll learn about 7 pioneers that played a role in the history of education in America and also helped to provide resources to people of color to help them succeed! 

The school year is here and is in full effect! Here are 7 outstanding pioneers who have made an impact on the history of education in America!

7 Pioneers That Played A Role In The History of Education in America

1. Virginia Randolph 

A picture of Virginia Randolph who has made an impact on the history of education in America by being a pioneer in vocational training
Courtesy of Henrico County

Virginia Randolph was the child of two former slaves and resided in Richmond, VA. 

She is known to be a pioneer in vocational training which is known for courses that specialize in a specific career or field of work. 

This form of training is primarily in trade schools and in some community colleges which is a great way for students get an education without a financial commitment to expensive tuition and the dedication of four years of schooling.

Recommended: Interesting Facts You Need To Know About Historically Black Colleges & Universities 

Vocational training changed education because it gave an option to students out of high school who didn’t have the funds to attend a traditional university or couldn’t go to school full time.  

Some examples are of vocational careers are: 

  • Hair Stylists 
  • Registered Nurses 
  • First Responders 
  • Sous Chef
  • Electrician 
  • Paralegal

Randolph advocated for vocational training because she believed that the best way to gain a new skill was to learn by doing it. 

She also is known for encouraging the student’s parents to be more involved in their education and organized many clubs and campaigns to help improve the lives of her students and their families. 

Here are a few that she organized: 

Willing Workers Club 

  • Created to help raise money and gather supplies for the schools in the area that needed it 

Patron’s Day 

  • A day to help get the parents involved with their children’s education by inviting them to the school to see how they learn

Patrons Improvement League 

  • A group of volunteers that would help to maintain the cleanliness of the school to make it more appealing and inviting 

Better Homes Campaign 

  • Created to help uplift the communities that the students lived in that were impoverished by providing necessities and improving their homes.

2. Aaron Lloyd Dixon 

Courtesy of Blackpast

Aaron Lloyd Dixon was an activist who was born in Chicago but resided in Seattle for most of his life. 

He definitely made his mark as an activist as he:

  • Has protested with Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Was one of the first children to integrate his high school, Queen Anne High School
  • Was the founder of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party which was the first chapter outside of California

Outside of being an activist, Dixon also created the “Free Breakfast for School Children Program” which does exactly what you think – provides free breakfast to kids in school! 

In the first year, it was created, the program fed over 10,000 students!

This is monumental because this program is very prominent now across the nation!

Students are able to get a free meal before they start the school day which helps families that don’t always have the money to provide the best breakfasts. 

Although this doesn’t directly affect the educational system, it definitely is a big part of education in America and indirectly can increase the student’s focus. 

3. Hallie Quinn Brown 

Courtesy of Black America Web

Hallie Quinn Brown was the daughter of two former slaves and was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

She is known internationally as one of the greatest elocutionists who are trained public speakers who specialize in gestures and delivery. 

She provided speeches on issues on women’s suffrage, the causes of temperance, and civil rights while also amplifying the power of Black women’s voices. 

Related: Why Does Society Dismiss The Feelings & Voices of Black Women

Although, before becoming an elocutionist, she was a teacher in the South teaching children on various plantations. 

She became well known as a great missionary which resulted in her becoming a traveling teacher for Wilberforce University. 

Following this, she went on to get a Master’s of Science degree making her one of the first women to earn such a high degree and became the principal of the Tuskegee Institute under the supervision of Booker T. Washington

Brown also was a pioneer in women’s clubs and created the Colored Women’s League of Washington, D.C., and the National Association of Colored Women in the same year! 

As the president of these clubs, she established the Hallie Q. Brown Scholarship Fund to help advance the education of women. 

This is pivotal in the history of education in America because, in the early 1900s, it was considered abnormal for a woman to get an education. 

Alongside that, she set the bar for women of color and did everything to break the stereotype of a black woman solely being a housemaid. 

4. Fanny Jackson Coppin 

Courtesy of Blackoncampus.com

Fanny Jackson Coppin was born a slave in 1837 and her freedom was bought at the age of 12 by an aunt of hers. 

Once she was free, she took the time to go to school and get educated as she wanted to become a teacher. 

“She believed education would free Black people.”

She ended up attending Oberlin College which was one of the first institutions to accept black women. 

From there she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1865 making her one of the first Black women to ever receive a college degree at the time. 

That same year, she started teaching at Philadelphia’s Institue for Colored Youth, which is the first established HBCU in the country. 

Four years later, she was offered to be the principal of the institution, making her the first Black female principal in the country. 

She was the principal for the Institue for Colored Youth for 37 years

Coppin made an impact on thousands of students and one of her last living students stated in an interview, “People were in awe of this woman because of her dedication not only to the field of education but to her race. She believed education would free Black people.” 

She believed in it so much that she made it her mission to create more educational opportunities for people of color and to expand educational resources. 

She did this by:

  • Ensuring vocational training courses were offered at the institution she was principal at
  • Eliminated tuition to allow a variety of students from different socioeconomic classes to get an education
  • Created courses for normal school (training for aspiring teachers). 

5. Nathan Hare

Courtesy of Bay Area Television 

Nathan Hare was an activist who was born in Oklahoma in 1934. 

He was a professor at Howard University who led the Black Power Movement with students in the 1960s which led to him being fired. 

He then went on to teach at San Francisco State University where he directed the first  Black Studies program in the nation. 

This led to him adopting the name “father of Black studies”

In 1969, the Black Student Union was protesting to receive a department for Black Studies and Hare joined them. 

This protest lasted 5 months and due to Hare being in disagreement with the president of SFSU at the time to end the protest, he was fired. 

Although this may not seem monumental to everyone, this is a big deal for Black people because it was the start of Black studies being included in colleges and universities! 

6. Ramona Edelin 

Courtesy of DC Public Charter School Board

Ramona Edelin was born in 1945 in Los Angeles and is known for being an academic activist. 

She has earned 3 degrees (bachelor’s, masters, and Ph.D.) which led her to join the National Urban Coalition and eventually became the president. 

While Edelin was president, she created a few educational programs to help improve opportunities in Black communities such as: 

Say Yes to a Youngster’s Future Program 

  • This program provided educational assistance and supplies to teachers and youth of color located in urban communities.

M.Carl Holman Leadership Development Institute

  • Created to help teach people of color how to be a leader 

Executive Leadership Program 

  • Created to help provide leadership opportunities to people of color 

She has continued to be the founder, president, or chair of a department within many educational boards through the years. 

She is currently the director of DC Association of Charter Schools which aims to provide more opportunities for students by developing quality charter schools in the DC area. 

Fun Fact: She is widely known for normalizing the use of the term “African-American” in America.

7. Bobby William Austin 

Courtesy of The History Makers

Bobby William Austin is from Jonesville, Kentucky, and founded the Village Foundation which is an organization that aims to break the barrier between Black males and the rest of society. 

In an interview, he stated that the goal would be achieved by first connecting Black men and boys to their local communities. 

Once they have connected with a smaller community, the next step would be to connect them to the rest of society.

One of the most popular ways he did this was through the Give a Boy a Book Day campaign. 

This campaign was created to help encourage the youth to read and engage with literature. 

He is still currently the president and CEO of this foundation and similar to Ramona Edelin, has been a Chairman for many educational boards over the years! 

I hope you learned something you never knew before and gained a new respect for 7 pioneers who made their mark in the history of education in America!  

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The school year is here and is in full effect! Here are 7 outstanding pioneers who have made an impact on the history of education in America!

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2 Comments

  1. This was a great read!! I would love to read more articles on this topic. Plus I’m a history buff.

    1. I am so glad you liked it! If you are interested I do have other articles on black history! I can definitely look into doing more history articles on pioneers!

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