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Thu, 10.20.1904

Enolia McMillan, Activist for Education born

Enolia McMillan

*Enolia Pettigan McMillan was born on this date in 1904. She was a Black educator, activist, and community leader.

From Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, when she was three, her family moved to Maryland in search of improved educational opportunities. There her father purchased a small farm to provide for his family. During those early days, the family was poor but had aspirations for their children, insisting that it was possible to succeed at any task if one worked hard and persevered.

After public segregated High School and finding no first-rate college in Maryland admitting Blacks, McMillan enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Unable to pay for board and lodging she traveled to school for four years. The first scholarship awarded by the Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority helped finance her undergraduate education.

In 1926, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in education and began to teach. At the time most local graduate schools were closed to Blacks. Commuting to Columbia University, she began to seriously question the Maryland public education system and used the issue for her master's thesis.

Entitled "Factors Affecting Secondary Education in the Counties in Maryland," it provided an attack on Maryland's racist dual school system during the 1930s, unequal school terms, salary scales, curricula, etc. This thesis resulted in her election as President of the Maryland State Colored Teachers' Association and as Regional Vice-President of the National Association of Colored Teachers. She married Betha D. McMillan, Sr. in 1936. McMillan was also denied the promotions she deserved in the Baltimore City School System.

In 1969, one year after retiring she became president of the Baltimore Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1976, the National Office was threatened with bankruptcy as a result of a suit levied against it in connection with a 1966 boycott of white merchants in Port Bigson, Mississippi.

McMillan led the fight in Maryland by launching a fundraising drive to help defray expenses. Her efforts resulted in the Baltimore Branch raising the largest local contribution.  In 1984, she became the first elected woman national president of the NAACP.

She felt that although many good laws have been passed, "The NAACP must appeal to the young people of today and make them aware of what young people were able to do before, and show them exactly how much of what has been done is being undone." She was a member of the Board of Regents of Morgan State University and served many other groups and received numerous awards and citations for her activities.

Enolia Pettigen McMillan died October 24, 2006, in Stevenson, Maryland from heart failure just four days after celebrating her 102nd birthday.

The Associated Press
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