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In 1879, Nannie Burroughs, a Black educator, was born on this date.
From Orange, Virginia, Nannie Helen Burroughs' father attended Richmond Institute and became a preacher. Her mother took Nannie and her sister and moved to Washington, D.C. Nannie attended the Colored High School (now Dunbar High School), where she was deeply interested in domestic science. Here she came in contact with Mary Church Terrell and Anna Julia Cooper, two women who became her role models and mentors.
In 1900, at the annual meeting of the National Baptist Convention in Virginia, Burroughs gave a speech, “How the Sisters Are Hindered from Helping.” This oration gained national recognition and served as a lightning rod for the formation of the largest Black women’s organization in the United States, the Woman’s Convention (WC), an auxiliary to the National Baptist Convention (NBC). Because of her hard work, leadership, and dedication, the membership of the WC grew dramatically, reaching one million members in 1903 and 1.5 million in 1907.
Her work did not stop there. In 1896, she joined other women to form the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) to promote the political mobilization of Black women. As her political partisanship ripened, she became a much sought-after participant in that arena, particularly by the Republican Party. When Herbert Hoover was elected president in 1928, he chose Burroughs to head a fact-finding commission on housing. In 1909, she founded the National Training School for Women and Girls, renamed the Nannie Helen Burroughs School in 1964.
Through her religious and educational efforts, she hoped to instill more Black women with moral values, such as thrift and hard work, and prepare them to become self-sufficient wage earners. Nannie Helen Burroughs died in Washington, D.C., on May 20, 1961, at 82.
Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York