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Selena S. Butler
Selena Sloan Butler was born on this date in 1872. She was a Black educator and community leader.
She spent her childhood years with her mother and older sister in Thomasville, Georgia. Her father offered support but did not live with the family. After receiving an elementary education from missionaries, she enrolled in Spelman Seminary (now Spelman College). After receiving her diploma in 1888, she taught English and elocution in Georgia and Florida. In 1893, she married Henry Rutherford Butler. They moved to Massachusetts the following year, and she studied at the Emerson School of Oratory while he pursued medical studies at Harvard.
He later set up practice in Atlanta and became a partner in Georgia's first Black-owned drugstore. Butler's interest in education intensified following the birth of her son (Henry Jr.) in 1899. Her community lacked a kindergarten for Black children, so she created one in her living room. During her son’s enrollment at a local public school, she formed the nation's first Black parent-teacher association. Its success led her to create the statewide Georgia Colored Parent-Teacher Association in 1920 and the National Colored Congress of Parents and Teachers (NCCPT) in 1926.
The national group worked closely with its white counterpart, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers (commonly called the National PTA). When the two groups merged in 1970, Butler along with Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst was recognized as one of the founders of the National PTA. In 1929 then-President Herbert Hoover appointed Butler to the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection. She also was involved with the National Association of Colored Women, the Georgia Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, the Georgia Commission on Interracial Cooperation, and several other social organizations. Following her husband's death in 1931, Butler moved to England with her son and worked with the Nursery School Association.
They later lived in Arizona, where she organized a Grey Lady Corps at the hospital in which Henry Jr. practiced until he married and moved to California. After a few years living in Atlanta, she joined her son and his wife in Los Angeles. She died of congestive heart failure in October 1964. The Atlanta school where she developed the first African American parent-teacher association was renamed in honor of her husband, and the adjacent park was renamed in her honor. Selena Sloan Butler’s portrait hangs in Georgia's State Capitol.
Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York