Nannie Helen Burroughs

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Nannie Helen Burroughs, by Rotograph Co., New York City, 1909.

Nannie Helen Burroughs, (May 2, 1878 – May 20, 1961) was an African-American educator, orator, religious leader, civil rights activist, feminist and businesswoman in the United States.[1] Due to her success of her famous 1900 speech "How the Sisters Are Hindered from Helping," from the National Baptist Convention in Virginia she instantly gained famed recognition.Around the year of October 9th, 1909, the National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, D.C., which surprisingly supported education for black women and young girls even though education had still been segregated within the deep South; she continued to work their until she had passed away. It's since been renamed into the Nannie Helen Burroughs School in honor of her plus it does provide the elementary grades coeducational classes. Constructed from 1927-1928, its Trades Hall, now its a National Historic Landmark designation.

Early life and education[edit]

Nannie H. Burroughs born in the year May 2, 1879, in Orange, Virginia. She is considered to be the eldest of both daughters John and Jennie Burroughs. Around the time she was 5 years old, her youngest sister had died in pregnancy, and her father, who is both a farmer and Baptist Preacher, died shortly a few years later. Both her mother and father belonged to a small fortune of ex-slaves which compelled both of them to start towards prosperity by the time the war had come to a conclusion that would free them.[2] She had a grandfather known as Lija the slave carpenter, during the slave era. He was capable of buying his way out to freedom. Burroughs and her Mom relocated to D.C. and stayed with Cordelia Mercer, Nannie Burrougs aunt and older sister of Jennie Burroughs. [3] By 1883, Burroughs and her mother moved to D.C., due to the better opportunities of employment and education. The high school she had went to attend was M Street High School. It was here she organized the Harriet Beecher Stowe Literary Society, business, and domestic science. There she had met her role models Anna J. Cooper and Mary Church Terrell, at the time were both active in suffrage movement and civil rights. Burroughs expected to work as a teacher in the District of Columbia Public Schools, and literally was told she was "too dark"-- which insisted they had preferred lighter-complex black teachers.[4] It wasn't just skin color that had seemed to be the issue but also her social pull had thwarted her for the appointment she was chosen for, but this is still yet remains if in fact true or not. Burroughs said it herself "the die was cast [to] beat and ignore both until death." This zeal open a door to a whole new set of opportunities for low income and social status Black women. Its because of this is what let Burroughs into a whole new path of opportunities such as establishing a training school for both women and girls to fight injustice. [5]


Burroughs holding Woman's National Baptist Convention banner.

From 1898-1909, Burroughs had been employed in Louisville, Kentucky, as an editorial secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention and bookkeeper. In her time in Louisville, the Women's Industrial Club had formed. Here they carried out into domestic science and management courses. Indeed one of the founders of the Women's Convention was indeed Nannie Burroughs, providing additional help to the National Baptist Convention and served from 1900-1947 near half a century. She was president for 13 years in the Women's Convention. This convention had the largest form of African-Americans ever seen, and help from this convention was highly important for black religious groups. Thanks to the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) which formed in 1896, the largest of three and including more than 100 local women's clubs. Because of her contribution to the NACW, the National Association of Wage Earners was also founded in order to draw the dilemma of Negro Women to the public. Nannie Burroughs was president, with other well known club women such as vice president Mary McLeod Bethune and treasurer Maggie Lena Walker. These women placed more onto public interest educational forums than trade-union activities. Burroughs other membership included Ladies' Union Band, Saint Lukes, Saturday Evening, and Daughters of the Round Table Clubs.[6] By 1928 Burroughs was working in the system. Nannie was appointed to committee chairwoman by the administration of Herbert Hoover, which was associated with Negro Housing, for the White House Conference of 1931 Home Building and Ownership, straight from the Crash of 1929 just as the Great Depression began. [7] 1933 had soon approached, at the Virginia Women's Missionary Union at Richmond Burroughs spoke, with the entitled address "How White and Colored Women Can Cooperate in Buildin a Christian Civilzation." [8]

Training School and Racial Uplift[edit]

During the first 40 years of the twentieth century young African American Girls were being prepared by the National Training School to "uplift the race"and obtain a livelihood. With industrial education being incorporated to train in morality, religion, and cleanliness, the staff of Nannie Helen Burrougs including herself needed to resolve a central conflict to many African-American women's lives: wage laborers was their main role of the service occupations of the ghetto, as well as their biggest role model guardians for "the race" of the community. The dominant culture's of African-American immoral image had to be challenged by the National Training School, training African-American women from young age to become efficient wage workers as well as community activism, reinforcing gendered ideals of respectability as it is extremely important to racial uplift. Racial Pride, respectability, and work ethic were all the key factors in training being offered by the National Training School and racial uplift ideology. Everyone viewed these qualities as extremely important for African-American women's success as fund-raisers, wage worker's, and race women. All these gathered from the school would bring African-American women into the labor of public sphere including politics, uplifting racial aid, and the domestic sphere expanded. By understanding the uplift ideology of its grass root nature Burroughs had used it to promote her school.[9]

Death and Legacy[edit]

On May 20, 1961 she was found dead in Washington D.C., but of natural causes. She had died alone due to the fact she never married because Burroughs had dedicated her entire life to the National Trade and Professional School for both women and girls. [10] She was buried at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church were she herself was a member. 3 years after her death the institution was renamed to Nannie Burroughs School and has remained that way since. Even though a century has passed since her death her history and legacy continue to motivated modern African-American women until this day. The Manuscript Division in The Library of Congress currently is holding 110,000 items in her papers. [11]

Nannie Burroughs, 1913.[12]


  1. ^ "Nannie Helen Burroughs papers, 1900-1963 (Library of Congress), Biographical Note (Woman's Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention of the United States of America)". 2001. Retrieved 2010-10-27. 
  2. ^ Hammond, Lily Hardy. UNO e-Library. Council of women for Home missions and Missionary Education Movement of the United States and Canada. p. 176. Retrieved 7 December 2016. 
  3. ^ Hine, Darlene Clark (1993). UNO e-Library. Retrieved 7 December 2016. 
  4. ^[full citation needed]
  5. ^ Hine, Darlene Clark (1993). Black women in America : an historical encyclopedia. Carlson Pub. p. 1530. ISBN 0926019619. Retrieved 7 December 2016. 
  6. ^[full citation needed]
  7. ^ "Herbert Hoover: Statement Announcing the White House Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership.". 
  8. ^
  9. ^[full citation needed]
  10. ^ "Burroughs, Nannie Helen (1883-1961) - The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed". 
  11. ^ "Education: African American Schools:Manuscript Division". 
  12. ^ Taylor, Julius F. "The Broad Ax". Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  13. ^ Runoko Rashidi & Karen A. Johnson, "A brief note on the lives of Anna Julia Cooper & Nannie Helen Burroughs: Profiles of African Women educators", Hartford, 1998 (revised December 19, 1999), Runoko Rashidi, accessed on December 18, 2007
  14. ^ "Honorees: 2010 National Women's History Month". Women's History Month. National Women's History Project. 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
  • Encyclopedia of African -American Culture and History, 2006

External links[edit]