February marks the start of Black History Month – a tribute to African American men and women who have made significant contributions to America and the rest of the world in the fields of education, science, politics, law, sports, the arts, entertainment, and much more. Even though Black History Month is synonymous with prominent figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Muhammad Ali – Teachers of Tomorrow would like to highlight some African American pioneers in teaching. Charles Lewis Reason, Susie King Taylor, and Fanny Jackson Coppin are just a few such figures worthy of mention. Let’s shine a long-overdue spotlight on these hidden figures that deserve to be celebrated for their contributions to education. If their names don’t immediately ring a bell, you’re not alone – so keep reading!
Charles Lewis Reason (1818-1893)
At a very young age, Charles knew the importance of education and displayed an aptitude for mathematics in school. He started his teaching career when he was 14-years-old, earning $25 a year. Reason became the first African American to teach at a predominantly white college. The magnitude of Reason’s appointment can be measured against the fact that prior to 1840, no more than 15 African American students attended white colleges. After three years at Central College, Reason left to assume a position of principal at the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Reason increased student enrollment, expanded library holdings and exposed students to outstanding African American intellectuals and leaders of that era. In 1847, Reason – along with Charles Bennett Ray; founded the New York-based Society for the Promotion of Education among Colored Children. Thanks to Charles, more African American children were able to attend college -and more African American teachers were allowed to teach in schools. Learn More.
Susie King Taylor (1848-1912)
Susie King Taylor was born into slavery on Aug. 6, 1848. At age seven – she attended two secret schools taught by African American women. From those teachers -Susie gained the rudiments of literacy, and then extended her education with the help of two white youths; both of whom knowingly violated law and custom to do so. Susie Baker King Taylor was the first African American to teach openly in a school for former slaves in Georgia. She taught forty children in day school and “a number of adults who came to me nights, all of them so eager to learn to read, to read above anything else.”. During the Civil War – Susie aided the Union Army as the first African American nurse, and later helped freedmen and Civil War veterans as well. At the end of her life, Susie secretly wrote “Reminiscences of My Life in Camp”, making her the only African American woman to publish a memoir of her wartime experiences. Susie led the change that made a major impact in African American education. Learn More.
Fanny Jackson Coppin (1837-1913)
Born into slavery, Fanny Jackson Coppin was purchased and freed by her aunt at age 12. As an adult, Fanny attended Oberlin College in Ohio where she excelled. In 1869 Fanny became the first African American woman to receive the position of Principal for an entire institution. She held this position for 37 years. Fanny sought to help all children receive an education – regardless of race or social class. During Fanny’s education career – she taught humility, character, and the “power to help ourselves”. As principal of the Institute of Colored Youth – Coppin abolished tuition to ensure that students of both rich and poor backgrounds were able to attend school and receive an education. She also believed in mutual respect between teacher and student while removing corporal punishment. Fanny Jackson Coppin conquered overwhelming obstacles and remains an inspiration to this day. Learn More.
Feeling inspired by these incredible teachers? Do you want to leave your mark on history? Apply to our program today and teach this year!