with the Rev. John Wright marching to Ocean City's Boardwalk in 1986
October 20, 1904|
Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, U.S.
October 24, 2006 (aged 102)|
Stevenson, Maryland, U.S.
|Occupation||Teacher, NAACP President|
|Spouse(s)||Betha D. McMillan, Sr. (m. 1935-1984, his death)|
Born Enolia Virginia Pettigen in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Elizabeth Fortune Pettigen and John Pettigen, a former slave. The family moved to Maryland in search of improved educational opportunities when she was eight. Enolia Pettigen attended Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, Maryland and later Howard University in Washington, D.C. with the help of a scholarship from Alpha Kappa Alpha and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in education in 1926.
She became a teacher in 1927 in Caroline County, Maryland teaching at Denton High School. In 1928, she became a principal in Charles County. McMillan received a master's degree in 1933 from Columbia University. During her masters education, she began to question the Maryland public education system and used the topic for her master’s thesis entitled Some Factors Affecting Secondary Education for Negroes in Maryland Counties (Excluding Baltimore).
The thesis attacked Maryland’s racist dual school system in the 1930s. She found that the system provided unequal school terms, salary scales and curricula. These effects of segregation prompted her to become President of the Maryland State Colored Teachers' Association and as Regional Vice-President of the National Association of Colored Teachers.
On December 26, 1935, she married Betha D. McMillan. They had a son, Betha McMillan Jr., in 1940. After the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling outlawing segregated public schools, she was one of the first Black teachers at a White school.
She retired from teaching in 1968. In 1969, she defeated Juanita Mitchell, becoming president of the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP. During her presidency, the National Office was threatened with bankruptcy through legal proceedings against it in connection with a 1966 boycott of white merchants in Port Gibson, Mississippi in 1976. She launched a fundraising drive to help defray expenses and her efforts resulted in the Baltimore Branch raising the largest local contribution of $150,000.
In 1984, she became the first elected woman national president of the NAACP and held the position until 1990. The role at the time was largely ceremonial, but McMillian had considerable influence in the organization’s policies and operations. Along with former NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Hooks, she is credited with organizing the organization’s move from New York to Baltimore in 1986.
She was an outspoken critic of the Reagan administration which she felt harmed the NAACP’s advocacy efforts in housing, education, employment and business. During her tenure, she also helped Black businesses to receive federal contracts and in 1985 led a protest against the apartheid in Washington.
Awards and honors
- She was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990.
- Awarded an Honorary Degree in Public Service from The University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 1991.
- In 2000, the street near the NAACP’s Baltimore branch was renamed Enolia P. McMillan Way.
- "Enolia P. McMillan -- first woman named NAACP president". Retrieved 2015-05-06.
- Inc, The Crisis Publishing Company (2012). The Crisis. The Crisis Publishing Company Inc. Retrieved 2015-05-06.
- "Women Leaders Are Backbone of NAACP" (PDF). 2009. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
- "King Memorial Park". King Memorial Park. Retrieved 2015-05-06.
- "The Women of the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame". msa.maryland.gov. Retrieved 2015-05-06.
- "UMBC: Office of the Provost". www.umbc.edu. Retrieved 2015-05-06.
- Frances N. Beckles. "Enolia Pettigen McMillan" in 20 Black Women: A Profile of Contemporary Black Maryland Women. Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, 1978. OCLC 3869066 pp. 92–99
- Adam Bernstein. "Enolia McMillan; First Woman to Lead NAACP". The Washington Post, October 26, 2006 p. B7
- "Enolia Pettigen McMillan" in Notable Black American Women, Gale Research, 1992. ISBN 978-0-7876-6494-7
- Nicole Fuller and Kelly Brewington. "‘Matriarch of NAACP’ dies at 102". The Baltimore Sun, October 25, 2006 p. 1A, 9A
- Carolyn B. Stegman. "Enolia Pettigen McMillan" in Women of Achievement in Maryland History. Forestville, MD, 2002. p. 37-38.