Elizabeth Evelyn Wright

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Elizabeth Evelyn Wright
Born April 3, 1872
Talbotton, Georgia
Died December 14, 1906
Battle Creek, Michigan
Resting place Voorhees College
Alma mater Tuskegee Institute
Occupation Educator
Known for Founding Voorhees College
Title Principal
Spouse(s) Martin A. Menafee
Parent(s) John Wesley Wright and Virginia Rolfe

Elizabeth Evelyn Wright (April 3, 1872 – December 14, 1906) founded Denmark Industrial Institute in Denmark, South Carolina, as a school for African-American youth. It is present-day Voorhees College, a historically black college (HBCU). She was a humanitarian and educator, founding several schools for black children.

Early life and education[edit]

Wright was born on April 3, 1872 in rural Talbotton, Georgia. Her father, John Wesley Wright, was an African-American carpenter. Her mother, Virginia Rolfe, was a Cherokee woman. Wright went to a school held in a church basement.

In 1888, she matriculated at Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute as a night student. After two years, Wright moved to Hampton County, South Carolina to assist in a rural school for black children. After the school was burned, she returned to Tuskegee and graduated.


Inspired by her experience at Tuskegee and knowing the importance of education, Wright started several schools in the area of Denmark, but they failed due to arson, jealousy, or other reasons.[1] Wright started a night school for African-American men in Hampton County.

In 1897, she moved to Denmark in rural Bamberg County, South Carolina. There she started a school over a store with the support of some influential people in the community. She raised money for what she called Denmark Industrial School, modeled after Tuskegee Institute.

Ralph Voorhees and his wife, philanthropists from Clinton, New Jersey, donated $5,000 for the purchase of land and construction of the school's first building. In 1902 Voorhees Industrial School opened for male and female students at the elementary and high school levels, and Wright was principal. Voorhees provided additional gifts during the next few years, and the General Assembly incorporated the school in his name.

For years this was the only high school for blacks in the area.[2]

The school was later affiliated with the Protestant Episcopal Church and eventually became a fully accredited four-year college.


In 1906 Wright married Martin A. Menafee, treasurer of Voorhees College. Shortly after her marriage, she became ill. She went to the well-known Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan for medical treatment but died there on December 14, 1906.[3][4]

Wright was buried on the Voorhees College campus.[5]

Wright is honored with Anna Julia Haywood Cooper with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on February 28.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ NRHP Nomination form
  2. ^ NRHP Nomination form
  3. ^ Edgar, Walter. South Carolina Encyclopedia (2006) p. 1050, Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, ISBN 1-57003-598-9.
  4. ^ Morris, J. Kenneth. Elizabeth Evelyn Wright: 1872-1906 Founder of Voorhees College (1983) University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee.
  5. ^ NRHP Nomination form

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
New position
Principal of Vorhees Industrial School
Succeeded by
Gabriel Miller