MARY (GIBSON) HUNDLEY, 1897-1986

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Mary Gibson Hundley, educator and civil rights activist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on October 18, 1897, the daughter of Malachi Gibson, a lawyer, and Mary Matilda Syphax, a teacher. On her mother's side, MGH was a descendant of Martha Custis Washington and granddaughter of William Syphax, first superintendent of Colored Public Schools of Washington and Georgetown. She graduated from Dunbar High School (then known as the "M" Street school) in Washington D.C. in 1914. At Radcliffe College she concentrated in English and composed songs for her class and for college theatrical productions. Her financial difficulties, compounded by Radcliffe Dean Boody's insistence that she work her way through college as a maid, would have led to her withdrawal from college had not President Le Baron Russell Briggs intervened to arrange a loan for her. (See related records in Radcliffe College Archives.) She was graduated cum laude in 1918. She later pursued graduate study in French at Middlebury College (AM 1927) and the Sorbonne (1928).

After teaching for two years in Baltimore, MGH moved back to Washington and taught French, English, and Latin at Dunbar High School (DHS), 1920-54, and part-time at Miner Teachers College, 1931-32. She was chairman of the College Bureau of DHS, 1943-49, and a member of the Guidance Committee. She organized after-school enrichment programs for DHS students: the Coleman and Margaret Jennings Clubs (social service clubs) and Le Cercle Francais. MGH was credited with inspiring generations of Black students to go on to higher education and enroll in Ivy League colleges.

Wishing to participate in integrated education, she transferred to Eastern High School where she taught English and Latin (1955-59). From 1959 to 1964 she taught at Howard University, and thereafter tutored pupils privately in French.

Her pride in the achievements of alumni of DHS led her to write The Dunbar Story, 1870-1955 (New York: Vantage Press, 1965). The book describes the history of DHS from its founding in 1870 as the first college preparatory school for Blacks in the nation, whose roster of notable alumni includes teachers, politicians, clergy, and members of other professions. In 1973 MGH led the Dunbar Alumni Association's campaign to prevent the demolition of the original school building; despite agitation by alumni and a national press campaign, the building was demolished in 1977.

The Hundleys purchased and moved into a house with a restrictive racial covenant in January 1941. Their white neighbors brought suit against them and won the case in December 1941. The Hundleys were enjoined from occupying their house and were evicted in July 1942. The judgment was reversed on appeal in December 1942 (Hundley et ux. v. Gorewitz et al. No. 8154 U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C., 1942). The case was one of those cited in Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 US1-23 (1947), which established that covenants restricting use and ownership of property to whites violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

MGH was a member of numerous women's organizations, including Alpha Kappa Sorority, The Links, the Women's Auxiliary of the Freedmen's Hospital, the Radcliffe Club of Washington, the American Association of University Women, and the International Federation of University Women. She was a member of St. Luke's Episcopal Church and active in Washington organizations that provided escorts and interpreters for foreign visitors. She served as tour leader for the National Education Association in 1958, traveled abroad frequently, and was an avid theater- and concert-goer. From 1974 to 1979 she was a docent at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian. Radcliffe College honored her at its Centennial Awards ceremony in 1978 with the Alumnae Recognition Award for her service as an educator and "courageous citizen."

She was married first to William M. Brewer (divorced, 1935) and second to Frederick F. Hundley (1938), a public school art teacher, who died in 1955.

From the guide to the Papers, 1910-1985, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Papers, 1910-1985 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
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correspondedWith Andre Morize. person
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associatedWith Banks, Dorothy (Houston), 1908- person
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associatedWith Bruce, Roscoe Conkling person
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associatedWith Dunbar High School corporateBody
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associatedWith Lodge, Henry Cabot, 1902- person
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correspondedWith Morize, Andre person
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associatedWith Syphax, William, 1825-1891 person
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correspondedWith U.S. Department of State corporateBody
correspondedWith Vantage Press corporateBody
associatedWith Washington International Center corporateBody
associatedWith YWCA corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
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Birth 1897

Death 1986

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