Marina Bacher: Pioneer African-American Educators in Washington, D.C.

My dissertation project focuses on Anna J. Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, and Eva B. Dykes, who shaped the educational landscape in Washington, D.C., in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Cooper’s most important accomplishment is that she was principal of the elite M Street High School. Terrell was the first African American woman to serve on the Board of Education in Washington, D.C. Dykes also made important contributions, especially since she was the first African American woman to finish the requirements for a Ph.D. These three pioneer educators serve as examples to describe the societal circles they were involved in. In this respect, it must be considered that Washington, D.C., was, in certain respects, a paradise for African American educators around the turn of the century, at least in comparison to most other US-American cities. Still, Cooper, Terrell, and Dykes not only had to live with race discrimination but also with gender discrimination. All three of them have something in common: they all taught at the M Street (or later Dunbar) High School in Washington, D.C. This is very important for my thesis since I am illustrating how they interacted and how they treated each other. Apart from examining the lives and works of Cooper, Terrell, and Dykes, a chapter is devoted to African American education in Washington, D.C.

(University of Salzburg)