Rachel B. Noel

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Rachel B. Noel
Rachel Bassette Noel.jpg
Born January 15, 1918
Hampton, Virginia, USA
Died February 4, 2008(2008-02-04) (aged 90)
Oakland, California
Alma mater Hampton Institute
Fisk University
Occupation Educator, politician, civil rights leader

Rachel Bassette Noel (January 15, 1918 – February 4, 2008) was an African-American educator, politician and civil rights leader. She is known for the "Noel Resolution", a 1968 plan to integrate the Denver city school district, and her work to implement that plan, as well as other work on civil rights. When elected to the Denver Public Schools Board of Education in 1965, she was the first African-American woman elected to public office in Colorado.

Personal life[edit]

Rachel Bassette was born in 1918 in Hampton, Virginia to parents who were both college graduates. Her father, A. W. E. Bassette, Jr., was a lawyer. From an early age, her parents emphasized the importance of education. Bassette graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree from Hampton Institute (now known as Hampton University) and earned a master's degree in sociology from Fisk University, both historically black universities.

She married Dr. Edmond F. Noel from Jackson, Mississippi, whom she met at Fisk. He was born in Holmes County, Mississippi, and named for a half-uncle, Edmond Favor Noel, governor of Mississippi, serving 1908 to 1912. The African-American physician and European-American politician were from different generations of descendants of Leland Noel, a white planter in Holmes County.

They moved to Denver, Colorado in 1949 following World War II and during years of the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the West. Her husband was the first African American to practice medicine in Denver. He worked at Rose Hospital, a new hospital founded by the Jewish community with criteria that allowed minority doctors to practice (they were excluded from other hospitals at the time). He also practiced medicine in the Five Points community. Together they had a son, Edmond "Buddy" Noel Jr., and daughter, Angela Noel.

In her last year, Noel moved from Denver to Oakland, California in 2007 to live with her daughter. Noel died on February 4, 2008.[1] She is survived by her two children, five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Civil life[edit]

Noel became active in civic affairs and politics, working to integrate local schools and ensure that minorities had equal opportunities. In 1965, Noel was elected as the first African American to serve on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education. She was the first African-American woman elected to public office in Colorado.[2]

She presented what became known as the Noel Resolution to the Board of Education on April 25, 1968, and called for the Denver area school district superintendent to develop a plan for integration, providing equal educational opportunity for all children. Public opposition was high, and Noel and her family received many threatening phone calls and hate mail. The resolution was passed in February 1970.[2][3]

Noel was a professor at Metropolitan State College of Denver, where she founded and chaired the African-American Studies Department from 1971-80. Noel was also a member of the Chancellor's Advisory Committee for the Health Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder and University of Colorado at Denver. She was appointed as a Commissioner of the Denver Housing Authority[4]

Noel served on the Advisory Board of the United States Civil Rights Commission.[4]

Legacy and honors[edit]

  • She was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Public Service degree by the University of Denver.
  • In 1976 she was appointed by Governor Richard Lamm to serve on the University of Colorado Board of Regents; in 1978 she was elected statewide to a six-year term on the board, and served as chair of the board for one year.
  • The Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Professorship[5] was endowed in her honor in 1981 at Metropolitan State College of Denver. A visiting professor is named each year; Noel Professors have included such luminaries as Princeton professor Cornel West, international philanthropist Julius Coles, pianist Billy Taylor, author Iyanla Vanzant, former president of Spelman College Johnnetta B. Cole, jazz singer Dianne Reeves; Ossie Davis, the late actor and civil rights activist; and Lerone Bennett, Jr., executive editor of Ebony (magazine).
  • In 1990 she received the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award.
  • 1996, she was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame.[4]
  • The Rachel B. Noel middle school in Denver is named in her honor.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rachel Basette Noel (Obituary)". University of Colorado. 13 March 2008. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Rachel Bassette Noel". Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  3. ^ Woods, Katherine (1998). "Chapter 5: Park Hill, Denver" (PDF). Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development • Office of Policy Development and Research. 
  4. ^ a b c "Black History Month: Rachel B. Noel". This Week @ Mero. Metropolitan State College of Denver. 9 February 2005. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  5. ^ "2011 Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship2011 Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship". Metropolitan State College of Denver. 
  6. ^ "Who is Rachel B. Noel?". Rachel B Noel Middle School. Retrieved 26 September 2011.