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Ida Cummings, 1912
*Ida Rebecca Cummings was born on this date in 1867. She was a Black educator, organization leader, and club-woman.
From Baltimore, Maryland, her father was a hotel chef and catering business owner; her mother operated a boarding house at their home. Cummings was raised in an environment that stressed learning, Black unity, and community service. The family church, Metropolitan Methodist, was a station stop with Underground Railroad and offered literacy classes before the city allowed Black public schools. This atmosphere was a large part of the children’s place of academia in their early years. The Oblate Sisters of providence, an order of Black nuns, were Cummings’s first teachers.
Cummings began teaching primary school in 1900, moving to specialized courses in her home city and Chicago. She later attended Hampton Institute and Morgan State College; where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1922. Affectionately called “Miss Ida” by her students, Cummings taught for thirty-seven years. While teaching, she participated in organizations that worked to improve housing, health care, and education for poor children. In 1904, she and other members of the Colored YMCA established the Colored Empty Stocking and Fresh Air Circle.
They provided Christmas stockings to children who would otherwise have no gifts. The organization also aided in a healthier environment for these children by paying for boarding for them in rural homes during the summer. From 1912 to 1914, Cummings was secretary of the National Association of Colored Women and chair of the planning committee for its annual convention. She was a trustee of Bennett College, the first woman trustee of Morgan State College, and served as president of the Republican Woman’s League. Ida Cummings died in November 1958.
The Encyclopedia of African American Heritage
by Susan Altman
Copyright 1997, Facts on File, Inc. New York