Hundley, Mary Gibson, 1897-1986

Variant names

Hide Profile

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.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Radcliffe reminiscences, 1968-1973. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Radcliffe College Afro-American students, 1983- Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Hundley, Mary Gibson, 1897-1986. Mary Gibson Hundley letter, 1973. Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
creatorOf Hundley, Mary Gibson, 1897-1986. Papers, 1910-1985 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Carrington family. Papers: Lunenburg and Charlotte counties, Virginia, 1756-1843. Library of Virginia
creatorOf Papers of Mary Gibson Hundley, 1910-1985 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Complaint in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka National Archives at Kansas City
Relation Name
associatedWith A Better Chance corporateBody
associatedWith Alpha Kappa Sorority corporateBody
correspondedWith Alumnae Association corporateBody
associatedWith American Association of University Women corporateBody
associatedWith Anacostia Neighborhood Museum corporateBody
correspondedWith Andre Morize. person
associatedWith Association for the Study of Negro Life and History corporateBody
associatedWith Banks, Dorothy (Houston), 1908- person
associatedWith Briggs, Le Baron Russell, 1855-1934 person
associatedWith Briggs, Le Baron Russell, 1855-1934. person
associatedWith Brooke, Edward William, 1919- person
associatedWith Brooke, Edward William, 1919- person
associatedWith Bruce, Roscoe Conkling person
associatedWith Carrington family. family
associatedWith Catholic University corporateBody
associatedWith Coleman Jennings Club corporateBody
associatedWith College Guidance Committee corporateBody
correspondedWith Columbus Harmony Cemetery Society corporateBody
associatedWith Conant, James Bryant, 1893-1978 person
associatedWith Conant, James Bryant, 1893-1978. person
associatedWith Cooper, Anna J. (Anna Julia), 1858-1964 person
associatedWith Cooper, Anna J. (Anna Julia), 1858-1964. person
correspondedWith D.C. Board of Education corporateBody
associatedWith Dunbar Alumni Association corporateBody
associatedWith Dunbar High School corporateBody
associatedWith Dunbar High School. corporateBody
associatedWith Dunbar High School (Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Eastern High School corporateBody
associatedWith Experiment in International Living corporateBody
associatedWith George Stillman Hillard person
associatedWith Gibson family; family
associatedWith Gibson, Malachi, 1860- person
associatedWith Gibson, Malachi, 1860- person
correspondedWith Hanus, Paul person
correspondedWith Henry S. Robinson person
associatedWith Howard University corporateBody
associatedWith Howard University. corporateBody
associatedWith Hundley, Frederick F. (Frederick Ferdinand), 1903-1955 person
associatedWith Hundley, Frederick F., (Frederick Ferdinand), 1903-1955. person
associatedWith Institute of International Education corporateBody
associatedWith International Federation of University Women corporateBody
associatedWith International Visitors Council corporateBody
associatedWith Junior Citizens Corps corporateBody
correspondedWith Le Cercle Francais corporateBody
associatedWith Leon Ransom person
associatedWith Lodge, Henry Cabot, 1850-1924 person
associatedWith Lodge, Henry Cabot, 1902- person
associatedWith Margaret Jennings Club corporateBody
associatedWith Middlebury College corporateBody
associatedWith Miner Teachers College corporateBody
correspondedWith Morize, Andre person
associatedWith M Street High School corporateBody
correspondedWith Mt. Vernon Ladies' Association corporateBody
associatedWith National Education Association corporateBody
correspondedWith Office of Administrator of Rent Control corporateBody
associatedWith Pearl Buck Foundation corporateBody
associatedWith Radcliffe College corporateBody
associatedWith Radcliffe College. corporateBody
associatedWith Renwick Gallery corporateBody
associatedWith Smithsonian Institution corporateBody
associatedWith Sorbonne corporateBody
associatedWith Syphax family family
associatedWith Syphax, William, 1825-1891 person
associatedWith Syphax, William, 1825-1891. person
associatedWith The Freedmen's Hospital Women's Auxiliary corporateBody
correspondedWith U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. corporateBody
correspondedWith U.S. Department of State corporateBody
correspondedWith Vantage Press corporateBody
associatedWith Washington International Center corporateBody
associatedWith YWCA corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Baltimore MD US
District of Columbia DC US
Actions and defenses
African Americans
African American schools
African American women
Discrimination in housing
High school
Historic preservation
Race discrimination
Vocational guidance


Birth 1897-10-18

Death 1986



Ark ID: w6j788ph

SNAC ID: 87705519