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Dr. Algeania Freeman
*On this date in 1949, Algeania Freeman was born. She is a Black educator, administrator, author, consultant, and community activist.
Algeania Marie Warren Freeman, a native of Benson, North Carolina, was born in Betsy Johnson Memorial Hospital in Dunn, North Carolina, to Ms. Ada Mae Warren and Mr. Al Woodard, Jr. Until seven years old, known as "Marie," she lived in the Benson countryside. Raised in the face of Jim Crow, she was excited about learning and wanted to attend school. The white first-grade teacher at the segregated schools lived down the road from Marie and her family; she was Mrs. Bailey.
She violated segregation rules by delivering a pack of educational materials she wanted Marie to learn daily. Marie stood out by the mailbox daily as Ms. Bailey quizzed her on the previous day's lessons and gave her the next day's lesson. Marie knew she wanted to be a schoolteacher from age five. Ms. Bailey told her mother that she should be in school because, at the age of five years, she was performing first-grade assignments.
Marie was not eligible to attend school with her cousins in September 1955 because she wasn't old enough until January 1956. As a child, she saw many forms of segregation while growing up. At the Benson Mule Day Parade, Marie and the black girl scouts had to walk behind the mules and jump to avoid the mule dung. She also had to go to the back of Dixon's café to get her chicken salad sandwich in dirty dishwater. She knew the Klan lived in her hometown because a large billboard sign on highway 95 leading into Main Street in Benson said, "Welcome to Benson. Home of the Ku Klux Klan." One night, after her church had a white evangelist conduct a revival service, Marie watched them burn a cross in her Pastor's yard as her uncle used his gun to protect the family.
Despite Brown v. B.O.E., she attended segregated schools in Four Oaks, North Carolina. Marie was bused 15 miles daily for 11.5 years past all the white schools in Benson, North Carolina. During these years, her family moved twice locally. In one episode, Marie found a best girlfriend who resided across the street from her. When Marie was in the fourth grade, her mother told her she could not play with the white girl across the street again. Hearing her mother say this was hurtful because she did not understand that racism and segregation dictated that black and white children could not associate with each other.
Algeania Marie, eight years old
She and the other children in the Sorrow Valley community of Benson picked cotton, barned tobacco, and picked up sweet potatoes to earn money for school clothes and help their family's budgets. Her Auntie Pearl took her to visit North Carolina Central University when she was in the ninth grade to motivate her to attend college and weekends with her house-to-house selling Avon, Amway, and Stanley products. These trips taught her the importance of discipline and organization. Other activities that helped shape Marie's perspective about education and the importance of excelling included the girl scouts, 4H Club, and church camp.
After High School, she attended Fayetteville State University, where she began using her first name Algeania. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in English education at Fayetteville State with a minor in Speech in May 1970. She became the first Black woman to earn a Master of Science degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology from Southern Illinois University/Carbondale. On August 19, 1972, she married Warren Freeman, a fellow student she met at Southern Illinois University. They were married for 39 years, and they had one son.
She also became a certified Speech Pathologist in June 1973 after working a year as a Speech Pathology at Americana Geriatric Rehabilitation Center, St. Mary's Hospital, and a Mental Health institution in Decatur, Illinois working primarily with stroke victims. In August 1973, Freeman became an instructor at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia, in the Department of English, where she taught English and Speech classes. In September 1975, she enrolled at The Ohio State University. In March 1977, she earned a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Speech and Hearing Science from Ohio State University.
Later that year, Dr. Freeman became Chair of the Department of Speech Communications and Theatre Arts at North Carolina A & T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina. Dr. Freeman and her husband had a commuter marriage commuting between Ohio and North Carolina. Dr. Freeman returned to Norfolk, Virginia, as she would do five times in Portsmouth, Virginia, Baltimore, Maryland, and San Diego, California, to reunite their family. The couple divorced in April 2011. Backed by many years of professional experience, Dr. Freeman has worked as the president of four other academic institutions: Livingstone College, St. Paul's College, Wilberforce University, and Martin University.
Over the years, she increased responsibility for such establishments as Morgan State University, East Tennessee State University, Orange Coast College, North Carolina A&T State University, Southern California College, and Norfolk University. She is a past president of the PanHellenic Council, a Zeta Phi Beta Sorority member, and a former Miss Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. She is also a fellow of the American Society of Allied Health. Dr. Freeman has worked with the Virginia Board of Examiners for Audiology and Speech Pathology and the Virginia Task Force on Science and Technology.
Her activism has been through several board roles for the California Association of Instructional Administrators, the Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital, the Foundation for the Carolinas, and the Greater Opportunity Development Center, a foundation she created to help the poor improve their lives. She has mentored over 30,000 vulnerable persons to earn degrees in higher education. Dr. Freeman has been recognized in Who's Who in America and the Harlem Renaissance Award for being an Outstanding President of a Historically Black College and University.
Dr. Freeman is the author of 25 scholarly publications and the following books and albums: Step Up Sister, Step Up Sister Music with Poetry Album, Step Up Sister Poetry, and Black River. She has also served as a Pentagon fellow for the U.S. Army Center of Military History. The only woman in history to establish two NASA SEMAA Laboratories to help disadvantaged youth enter the STEM fields, Dr. Freeman is proud to have solicited funds from 65 corporations totaling 50 million dollars.
Dr. Freeman is currently a fundraising and grants writing consultant and the project director of the Bureau of Prisons Reentry CRN Project with Sampson Jefferson and Associates. Her projects range from faith-based prison reform to secondary and post-secondary classroom education strategies.