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Nellie Pratt Russell
*Nellie Pratt Russell was born on this date in 1890. She was a Black teacher and an incorporator of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Nellie Pratt was born in Macon, Georgia. in 1907; Pratt entered Howard University's College of Arts and Sciences. She attended when only .33% of African Americans and 5% of whites of eligible age participated at any college. Pratt graduated in 1911 from Howard with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
After graduation, Russell taught history and English two years at Topeka Normal and Industrial School in Topeka, Kansas. To be closer to her mother after her father's death, Nellie Pratt moved to Lawrenceville, Virginia, to teach at St. Paul Normal and Industrial School (St. Paul's College). There is 1913, Nellie Pratt married Dr. J. Alvin Russell. During their marriage, Nellie Russell had four sons and one daughter.
Pratt was initiated into Alpha Kappa Alpha during her sophomore year. Pratt started a lifetime of service during college by volunteering to distribute clothes and food to the poor. Along with Nellie Quander, Julia Evangeline Brooks, Norma Boyd, Minnie B. Smith, and Ethel Jones Mowbray worked together to incorporate Alpha Kappa Alpha on January 29, 1913, to provide for its future expansion to other colleges.
Russell also did graduate work during the summers, earning a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University in New York. She devoted great energy as an educator, teaching for nearly 50 years. She influenced generations of students and helped create teachers as excellent as she was. 1927 Who's Who in Colored America included the biography of Nellie Pratt Russell in its collection of people who contributed to the science, culture, and overall development of U.S. society. Russell served as a faculty advisor to the Alpha Upsilon chapter of ΑΚΑ at St. Paul's College.
In 1949, Russell expanded Alpha Kappa Alpha by helping found the Gamma Lambda Omega graduate chapter. Russell created a chapter educational loan to provide for undergraduate students. She served as the chapter's president, secretary, historian, and correspondence secretary through the years. She was named "Mother of the Year" and an outstanding chapter member by a local fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. Her daughter and three daughters-in-law all became members of Alpha Kappa Alpha in their turn. Her son James Russell served as President of St. Paul's College for ten years.
Nellie Pratt Russell died on December 13, 1979. St. Paul's College named a building after Dr. J. Alvin and Nellie Russell in honor of their long, joint contributions to the college. The college also established a scholarship in their name. Russell was honored with a state historical marker in 2017; it was erected by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources near the Brunswick County Museum and Historical Society in Lawrenceville.
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