Black History Month

During the 29 days of February The School District of Philadelphia will highlight individuals who’ve had an impact on education.

Constance E. Clayton, PhD, EdD, Former School Superintendent

An American educator and civic leader, who served as the first African American and female Superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia.

Constance E. Clayton, PhD, EdD

Thurgood Marshall

As a lawyer, Thurgood Marshall succeeded in having the Supreme Court declared segregated public schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). He would later become the first African-American Supreme Court Justice.

Thurgood Marshall

Ruby Bridges

Ruby Nell Bridges Hall is an American civil rights activist. She was the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis on November 14, 1960.

Ruby Bridges

Little Rock 9

Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls were black students who enrolled at formerly all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in September 1957. Their attendance was a test of a landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional.

Little Rock 9

Booker T. Washington

Booker Taliaferro Washington was an American educator, author, orator, and advisor to multiple presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African American community and of the contemporary black elite.

Booker T. Washington

Jeffrey Canada

Geoffrey Canada is an American educator, social activist and author. Since 1990, Canada has been president of the Harlem Children’s Zone in Harlem, New York, an organization that states its goal is to increase high school and college graduation rates among students in Harlem.

Jeffrey Canada

Joyce Wilkerson

Joyce Wilkerson is one of the first nine members appointed by Mayor Kenney to the Philadelphia Board of Education. Joyce also serves as a mayoral appointee and Chair of the School Reform Commission.

Joyce Wilkerson

James Baldwin

James Baldwin was a writer and activist whose works explore the complexity of race, class and sexual orientation as they relate to living in America. Some of his most notable works include Notes of a Native Son and If Beale Street Could Talk.

James Baldwin

William R. Hite, Jr., PhD

The first African-American male Superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia; With a focus on equity, innovation and quality.

William R. Hite, Jr., PhD

Sandra Dungee Glenn

First female, African-American chair of the School District of Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission. Has been a champion for education students for over 20 years as a Member of the SRC and the CEO of Harambee Charter School.

Sandra Dungee Glenn

Frederick Douglass Patterson

The third president of Tuskegee University and the founder of the United Negro College Fund. At Tuskegee, he founded the School of Veterinary Medicine. He served on President Harry Trumans’ Commission on Higher Education, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan in 1987.

Frederick Douglass Patterson

Brenda A. Allen, PhD

Current president of Lincoln University, and lifelong educator, Brenda has spent her life improving educational opportunities for students of color. Brenda Allen has held professorship positions at Yale University, Smith College, Brown University, and Winston Salem State University.

Brenda A. Allen, PhD

Mary Jane Patterson

Mary Jane Patterson is the first African-American woman to receive a B.A. degree. She received her degree from Oberlin College and went on to work at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, before becoming the first black principal at Dunbar High School in Washington D.C.

Mary Jane Patterson

Jahana Hayes

Jahana was recognized as National Teacher of the Year in 2016 for her emphasis on teaching kindness, compassion and customer service as well as traditional subjects. Currently Jahana is serving as the first African-American woman and first African-American Democrat to represent the state of Connecticut in Congress.

Jahana Hayes

Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander

First African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in economics in the United States (1921), and the first woman to receive a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She was the first African-American woman to practice law in Pennsylvania

Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander

Michelle Alexander

A highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, legal scholar and author of The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness — the bestselling book that helped to transform the national debate on racial and criminal justice in the United States.

Michelle Alexander

Robert Frederick Smith

Is an American billionaire businessman, philanthropist, chemical engineer, and investment banker. He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners.

Robert Frederick Smith

Ruth Wright Hayre

Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre became Philadelphia’s first African-American high school principal in 1956. She graduated from West Philadelphia High School at 15 and earned a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania by age 20. Richard Wright Elementary is named after her grandfather.

Ruth Wright Hayre

Walter R. Livingston Jr.

architect and civil activist; Central graduate

Walter R. Livingston Jr.

Dr. Jami Valentine

Was the first African American woman to graduate with a PhD in physics from Johns Hopkins University. She created the website AAWIP.com, which celebrates African American Women in Physics; Dobbins graduate.

Dr. Jami Valentine

Kiara Butler

Developed Diversity Talks in 2017, a Rhode Island-based program empowering pupils to improve their educators’ cultural competence. 9th- to 12th-graders become part of a task force that facilitates conversation-based workshops for adult professional development on topics such as power privileges, microaggressions and race.

Kiara Butler

Brandon Fleming

Is an award-winning educator, Assistant Debate Coach at Harvard University and Founder/CEO of the Harvard Diversity Project, a program that the Harvard Debate Council would adopt as its subsidiary, enrolls Atlanta high schoolers of color into Harvard’s summer residency program.

Brandon Fleming

Molefi Kete Asante

Is a professor and philosopher, who created the country’s first African-American studies Ph.D. program at Temple University in 1987.

Molefi Kete Asante

Edmund Gordon

Is a professor of psychology and was the founder of the federal Head Start program which promotes the school readiness of children from low-income families through agencies in their local community.

Edmund Gordon

Inez Beverly Prosser

Was the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate in psychology, her dissertation documented the psychological harm from racism to Black children learning in integrated schools.

Inez Beverly Prosser

Septima Poinsette Clark

A black American educator and civil rights activist. Clark developed the literacy and citizenship workshops that played an important role in the drive for voting rights and civil rights for African Americans.

Septima Poinsette Clark

Toni Morrison

An American novelist, essayist, book editor, and college professor. The critically acclaimed Song of Solomon brought her national attention and won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Toni Morrison

Alain LeRoy Locke

A Philadelphia native and Harvard graduate, was the first African American to win a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship in 1907. Known as the “Dean” or “Father of the Harlem Renaissance”, was an educator, writer, and philosopher.

Alain LeRoy Locke

Shirley Chisholm

The first African American woman in Congress (1968) and the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president of the United States from one of the two major political parties (1972).

Shirley Chisholm