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Thu, 01.23.1890

Blanche Armwood, Educator born

Blanche Armwood

*Blanche Armwood was born on this date in 1890. She was a Black teacher, lawyer, and activist.

Armwood was born into a well-established, middle-class, Black family in Tampa, Florida.  The youngest of five children of Levin and Maggie Armwood, she grew up with parents who provided her with the best education possible for a Black female in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century South.  Rather than registering their daughter at one of Tampa’s poor, segregated, Black public schools, they enrolled her in St. Peter Claver’s Catholic School, where, in 1902, she completed her studies. That same year Blanche also passed the Florida State Uniform Teachers Examination.

Since Tampa did not have a Black high school, the Armwood's then sent twelve-year-old Blanche to Spelman Seminary (later Spelman College) in Atlanta, Georgia. Four years later, in 1906, she graduated from the English-Latin course with honors and planned to attend college. However, because of her father’s poor health, Blanche returned to Tampa; that fall, she started teaching in the city’s Black public school system.

In 1914 the Tampa Gas Company, the Hillsborough County Board of Education, and the Colored Ministers Alliance, hired Armwood to organize an industrial arts school specializing in domestic science. The Tampa School of Household Arts trained Black women and girls to use modern appliances and techniques that would enable them to perform their duties as domestic servants properly. Under the direction of the former teacher, the school was an enormous success. In its first year of operation, over two hundred women received certificates of completion.

Armwood set up similar schools in Roanoke, Virginia; Rock Hill, South Carolina; Athens, Georgia; and New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1922, she returned to Tampa and became the first Executive Secretary of the Tampa Urban League. Simultaneously she continued to serve at Tampa’s Harlem Academy School as Assistant Principal; she eventually served as the first Supervisor of Negro Schools. Under her leadership, five new schools were built, and African American teachers' salaries were raised.

In 1934 decided to take her career in another direction, and she enrolled in Howard Law School and graduated with a jurist doctorate. However, she was never able to practice law because she died unexpectedly while on a speaking tour in Medford, Massachusetts, on October 16, 1939. Today, Armwood High School in Tampa, Florida, is named in her honor.

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