Monday’s Muse—Black History Month Tribute to Mary Jane Patterson


Hola!  I hope that you had a great weekend.  Today’s muse—Mary Jane Patterson is a less recognized pioneer in Black History.  An innovator of education, she paved the way for several black female educators.  Born on September 12, 1840 in Raleigh, NC unto a large family; her father (Henry Patterson) was a bricklayer that acquired his freedom in 1852.  At that time he packed up and moved his family to Oberlin, Ohio.  Always interested in learning Mary Jane soared in her studies and attended Oberlin College.  In 1862 she graduated and became the first African-American woman to receive her B. A. degree.

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Mary Jane Patterson, 1862 (Oberlin College Archives)

Upon graduation to moved to Philadelphia where she was a teacher’s assistant at the Institute for Colored Youth.  From 1869-1871 she taught at Preparatory High School for Colored Youth (later named Dunbar High School) in Washington, D. C.  She was promoted and became the first black principal of the school from 1871-1872.

Unfortunately for a quick year’s stint she was demoted to assistant principal to work under Richard T. Green, the first African American graduate of Harvard University.  However later she resumed her principal duties until her resignation in 1884.  Ms. Patterson also supported and participated in several clubs(Colored Women’s League of Washington D.C.) in the city as well.  She continued her humanitarian work until she died which was on September 24, 1894 at the age of 54.

The only thing that I can say is thank you Mary Jane Patterson for being an inspiration to us all.

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