Advancing the Cause of Education: 7 Black Women Who Kicked in the Schoolhouse Door

June 5, 2012 ‐ By Terri Williams

Black women have a long and proud history of advancing the cause of education in America. Their groundbreaking accomplishments – particularly in higher education –inspire, encourage, and challenge not only black women, but people of every race, age,  gender, and economic background to pursue their dreams.  From the first black female PhD graduates to the first black female presidents of prestigious universities, the 7 women on this list are game changers in the world of education and beyond.

"Dr. Sadie T M Alexander"

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Dr. Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander

In 1921, when Dr. Sadie T. M. Alexander graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School, she became the first black person in America to earn a doctorate in economics, and only the second black female to earn a doctorate in any area. Following graduation, Alexander enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and helped found the National Bar Association. In 1927, she was the first black woman to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Adding to this impressive list, Alexander was the first black woman to pass the bar exam, and when she went to work for her husband’s law firm, Alexander became the first black woman to practice law in Pennsylvania.  In 1948, President Harry Truman appointed her to his Committee on Civil Rights, where she coauthored the Commission’s report, “To Secure These Rights,” which laid the foundation for Truman’s civil rights policy.

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  • katchoo

    why does Black only mean African American?

  • I loved this article made me feel more encouraged to finish my masters in nursing

  • NakLew

    While I appreciate this list, it would be great to know two things: why these particular women (it lacks diversity in discipline) and why seven?

  • I love my sorority, but this article is a little biases. 6/7 of these women are members of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Although we have done great things over the last 100 years, plenty of other women could be added to this list also.

  • Black feminist Words of wisdom…Love this list!

  • D. Thompson

    The Wharton School of Business now has a black woman dean

  • Pingback: 7 Black Women Who Have Broken Barriers in Education | theGrio()

  • June

    The Melissa Harris Perry Show is on MSNBC, not CNN.

    • NakLew

      yeah, I’m going to need this fixed asap.

  • sagrawegv

    Dr. Cole was also the President of Bennett College in Greensboro,NC

  • Smilely

    I love it:) Thank you for posting this article, it is inspiring and it encouraged me today.

  • sammi_lu

    Wow..extremely inspiring and informative, we need more of these articles!

  • Pingback: Trailblazers of Education: 7 Black Women Who Broke Barriers()

  • Guest1234

    Just when the hateful noise hurled at black women gets too loud to bear, someone publishes a list like this. It’s pretty inspirational to see black women breaking down doors, fulfilling their dreams and living brilliant lives without being sidetracked by all the hate. It’s inspired me to block out all the noise and proceed confidently in the direction of success unencumbered by all the negativity out there about black women.

    Nice list! Thanks for sharing!

  • L-Boogie

    Great list.

    • anthony

      I concur.