Juliette Derricotte

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Juliette Derricotte
Juliette Derricotte, graduation, 1918
Born(1897-04-01)April 1, 1897
DiedNovember 7, 1931(1931-11-07) (aged 34)
Alma mater

Juliette Derricotte (April 1, 1897 – November 7, 1931) was an American educator and political activist whose death after receiving racist treatment after a fatal car accident in Chattanooga, Tennessee, sparked outrage in the African-American community. At the time of her death she was Dean of Women at Fisk University.

Early life[edit]

She was born in Athens, Georgia, the fifth of nine children of Isaac Derricotte and Laura Derricotte, a cobbler and a seamstress. As a child, she was hopeful of attending the local Institute and was crushed when her mother told her she would be unable due to her color. This event helped shape Juliette's perception of the world and her desire to change people's racial prejudices.[1]

Education and career[edit]

Her drive for education helped land her in Talladega College, where she ended up getting a scholarship for her public speaking. After she graduated in 1918, she enrolled at the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) Training School. She then became the YWCA secretary of the National Student Council. Her responsibilities included visiting colleges, planning conferences, and fostering ideas and leadership. She is credited with recreating the council in ideology, helping it became more balanced, open, and most importantly, interracial.[2]

In 1924, Derricotte became a member of the World Student Christian Federation and began traveling the world as a delegate representing American colleges. In 1927, she received a master's degree in religious education from Columbia University. She resigned her YWCA position in 1929 to become Dean of Women at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.[3][4]

Derricotte was an active member of Delta Sigma Theta, and was affiliated with the sorority's first graduate chapter in New York City. After her death, Delta established a scholarship fund in her honor; it would be awarded to members of the sorority who are employed in the social work field.

Deadly discrimination[edit]

Derricotte died in a traffic accident in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1931. While she was riding in a car driven by a student, they collided with a white couple. Both Derricotte and the student were seriously injured. Although they received emergency treatment from white doctors, they were refused admittance to the local hospital because they were black. They were moved to a local woman's house, and both died by morning. This triggered national outrage and several investigations, one involving the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.[5]


In the 1930s, Sue Bailey Thurman who had been inspired by Derricotte's ideas about learning and travel, established a scholarship fund, the Juliette Derricotte Scholarship, which allowed African-American undergraduate women of high academic achievement to study and travel abroad. One of the recipients of her scholarship was Margaret Bush Wilson, who revived the fund decades later.[6]


  1. ^ Rummel, Jack (2003). African-American Social Leaders and Activists. Facts On File. p. 55. ISBN 0-8160-4840-1.
  2. ^ Anthony, III, David Henry (2006). Max Yergan: Race Man, Internationalist, Cold Warrior. NYU Press. pp. 128–131. ISBN 978-0814707043.
  3. ^ Jones, William M (2007). The Will of Man. Xlibris Corporation. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-4257-9683-9.
  4. ^ Lauren Kientz Anderson, "A Nauseating Sentiment, a Magical Device, or a Real Insight? Interracialism at Fisk University in 1930", in Marybeth Gasman and Roger L. Geiger (eds), Higher Education for African Americans Before the Civil Rights Era, 1900-1964, Perspectives on the History of Higher Education, Vol. 29, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2012, pp. 75–111.
  5. ^ Lewis, David Levering (2001). W. E. B. Du Bois, 1919-1963: The Fight for Equality and the American Century. Holt Paperbacks. pp. 297, 298. ISBN 978-0-8050-6813-9.
  6. ^ DiMauro, Susan (March 27, 2013). "The Juliette Derricotte Scholarship: From the Desk of Margaret Bush Wilson". Washington University Libraries. St. Louis, Missouri: Washington University. Retrieved August 4, 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • Marion Cuthbert (1936). Juliette Derricotte. New York: The Woman's Press.


External links[edit]