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Thu, 01.29.1857

Mary Graham, Teacher born

Mary Graham

*The birth of Mary Graham is celebrated on this date in 1857.  She was a Black Teacher and journalist.  

Mary Henrietta Graham was born in Windsor, Ontario, to a white Englishwoman mother (Sarah) and Black father (Levi) from Illinois.  She was the second oldest of at least four children and went by the nickname "Mollie."  At some point in her youth she moved to Flint, Michigan, where she graduated from Flint High School in 1876. In 1880, she graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Philosophy in Literature, the first Black woman graduate from the university. While in Ann Arbor, she lived at 10 Maynard Street.  

After graduating, she got a job as a teacher at Lincoln University in Jefferson, Missouri.  In 1882 she married the journalist, lawyer, and activist Ferdinand Lee Barnett. They moved to Chicago and worked on Barnett's newspaper The Chicago Conservator, the first Black newspaper in the city. Mary and Ferdinand had two children, Ferdinand L. and Albert Graham Barnett.  Mary Graham died in Chicago on January 2, 1890, of heart disease. 

An obituary in the files of the Bentley Historical Library reads, At the time of her death, she was in the prime of useful vigorous life, the blow coming without a moment’s warning … During her short career of usefulness, she had come to be regarded not only as a woman of highest moral integrity but of splendid ability and brilliant promise. In 2017, University of Michigan students suggested changing the name of the C.C. Little Building to honor Graham instead, putting a temporary sign with her name over the existing sign. 

In 2018 the name "C.C. Little" was dropped, and the building is currently referred to by its address, 1100 North University.

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