Every day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with Phillys7thWard.org and Citizen Ed, will highlight a Black Educator Hall of Famer. But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History MonthFebruary is just the Blackest.

Today, our featured Black Educator is Josephine Beall Willson Bruce.

Josephine Beall Willson Bruce was born on October 29, 1853. She was the wife of U.S. Senator Blanche Bruce and the mother of famed educator Roscoe Bruce.

Bruce’s parents prioritized education for her and her siblings. Bruce’s father was a dentist and writer, and her mother an accomplished musician. Bruce graduated from Central High School in Cleveland, Ohio. After taking teaching courses at the Mayflower school, Bruce became a teacher; the first Black teacher in the Cleveland School District—where she was able to be a positive influence on the young minds that surrounded her.

She was given the opportunity by Booker T. Washington to become the principal at his Tuskegee University from 1899- 1902, where she continued to promote education. This opportunity gave her the ability to offer training to other school teachers as the institute itself was vocational, however she was occasionally criticized for accepting the role as Lady Principal—as she was seen as a wealthy woman taking a job from a less fortunate young woman who would be more able to connect with the students of the school.

Yet her work at Tuskegee inspired her son, Roscoe Bruce, to engage in education. His visiting his mother facilitated an opportunity to receive an offer from Booker T. Washington.

Josephine Bruce became interested in the emerging women’s club movement and in 1892 became one of the charter members of the Colored Woman’s League of Washington, D.C., as well as organizing the National Organization of Afro-American Women (1894) to improve and promote the interests of Black women. Bruce spoke at the convention of the National Federation of Afro-American Women in 1896, a convention led to the merger of two organizations forming the National Association of Colored Women. 

In addition to her club and educational work, she wrote articles, one for The Crisis and three for the Voice of the Negro, as well serving as editor of National Notes, the official organ of the National Association of Colored Women. 

Josephine Beall Willson Bruce; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.

For more information on Josephine Bruce, visit the following site.


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