Burroughs, Nannie Helen, 1879-1961

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In 1879, Nannie Helen Burroughs was born to a formerly enslaved couple living in Orange, Virginia. Her father died when she was young, and she and her mother relocated to Washington, DC. Burroughs excelled in school and graduated with honors from M Street High School (now Paul Laurence Dunbar High School). Despite her academic achievements, Burroughs was turned down for a Washington D.C. public school teaching position. Some historians speculate that the elite black community discriminated against Burroughs because she had darker skin. Undeterred, Burroughs decided to open her own school to educate and train poor, working African American women. Burroughs proposed her school initiative to the National Baptist Convention (NBC). In response, the organization purchased six acres of land in Northeast Washington, D.C. Now Burroughs needed money to construct the school. She did not, however, have unanimous support. Civil rights leader Booker T. Washington did not believe African Americans would donate money to found the school. But Burroughs did not want to rely on money from wealthy white donors. Relying on small donations from black women and children from the community, Burroughs managed to raise enough money to open the National Training School for Women and Girls. Even though some people disagreed with teaching women skills other than domestic work, the school was popular in the first half of the 20th century. The school originally operated out of a small farm house. In 1928, a larger building named Trades Hall was constructed. The hall housed twelve classrooms, three offices, an assembly area and a print shop. In addition to founding the National Training School for Women and Girls, Burroughs also advocated for greater civil rights for African Americans and women. At the time, black women had few career choices. Many did domestic work like cooking and cleaning. Burroughs believed women should have the opportunity to receive an education and job training. She wrote about the need for black and white women to work together to achieve the right to vote. She believed suffrage for African American women was crucial to protect their interests in an often discriminatory society. Burroughs died in May 1961. She never married and she devoted her life to the education of black women. In 1964, the school was renamed the Nannie Helen Burroughs School in her honor. Burroughs defied societal restrictions placed on her gender and race and her work foreshadowed the main principles of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The Trades Hall, now a National Historic Landmark, is the last physical legacy of her lifelong pursuit for worldwide racial and gender equality.
Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Charlotte Everett Hopkins Collection of National Civic Federation, Woman's Department, District of Columbia Section Records., 1900-1926, (bulk 1910-1918) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Records Regarding Alleys Considered and Not Considered for Reclamation, 1934 - 1957 National Archives at Washington, D.C
referencedIn Booker T. Washington Papers, 1853-1946, (bulk 1900-1915) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Terrell, Mary Church, 1863-1954. Mary Church Terrell papers, 1851-1962 (inclusive), 1886-1954 (bulk) [microform]. Yale University Library
referencedIn Papers of Charlotte Hawkins Brown, 1900-1961 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Mary Church Terrell Papers, 1851-1962, (bulk 1886-1954) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Phelps-Stokes Fund records, 1893-1970 Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Archives Section
referencedIn Montgomery, Helen Barrett, 1861-1934. Typed letter signed Helen B. Montgomery to: "My Dear Sir." August 19, 1925. Wellesley College
referencedIn Photographs of African-American Youth at Regional 4-H Camps, 1948 - 1961 National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Phelps-Stokes Fund. Phelps-Stokes Fund records, 1893-1970. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Lawrence, Una Roberts, 1893-1972. Papers, 1839-1970. Southern Baptist Historical Library & Archives
creatorOf National Baptist Convention of the United States of America. Correspondence with Marian Anderson, 1959-1960. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Johnson, Mordecai W. (Mordecai Wyatt), 1890-1976. Papers, 1913-1976. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University
creatorOf Nannie Helen Burroughs Papers, 1900-1963, (bulk 1928-1960) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Papers of Charlotte Hawkins Brown, 1900-1961 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Adams, Charles C. (Charles Christopher), 1873-1955 person
correspondedWith Bethune, Mary McLeod, 1875-1955 person
correspondedWith Bradford, Janie person
associatedWith Brown, Charlotte Hawkins, 1883-1961. person
correspondedWith Calloway, Rebekah person
associatedWith CHARLOTTE EUGENIA (HAWKINS) BROWN, 1883-1961 person
associatedWith Cooperative Industries (Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
correspondedWith De Priest, Oscar, 1871-1951 person
correspondedWith Dillard, J. H. (James Hardy), 1856-1940 person
associatedWith Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association. corporateBody
correspondedWith Gaillard, Margery B. person
correspondedWith Gibbs, Henrietta M. person
correspondedWith Harrison, Earl L. person
correspondedWith Hert, Sallie. person
correspondedWith Hopkins, Charlotte Everett. person
correspondedWith Jackson, J. H. (Joseph Harrison), 1900- person
correspondedWith Jernagin, William Henry, b. 1869 person
associatedWith Johnson, Mordecai W. (Mordecai Wyatt), 1890-1976. person
correspondedWith Jordan, Lewis Garnett, 1854?- person
correspondedWith Lampkin, Daisy E. (Daisy Elizabeth), 1882-1965 person
correspondedWith Lawrence, Una Roberts, b. 1893 person
correspondedWith Layten, Shirley W. person
correspondedWith Mallory, Kathleen Moore, 1879-1954 person
correspondedWith Mdodana-Arbouin, Uvee R. person
associatedWith Montgomery, Helen Barrett, 1861-1934. person
correspondedWith Moton, Robert Russa, 1867-1940 person
associatedWith National Association of Wage Earners. corporateBody
associatedWith National Baptist Convention of the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith National Baptist Convention of the United States of America. Women's Auxiliary. corporateBody
associatedWith National League of Republican Colored Women. corporateBody
associatedWith National Trade and Professional School for Women and Girls (Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith National Training School for Women and Girls (Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Phelps-Stokes Fund. corporateBody
correspondedWith Pickens, William, 1881-1954 person
correspondedWith Powell, A. Clayton (Adam Clayton), 1865-1953 person
correspondedWith Powell, Adam Clayton, 1908-1972 person
associatedWith President's Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership (1931 : Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Scott, Emmett J. (Emmett Jay), 1873-1957 person
correspondedWith Stewart, Sallie W. (Sallie Wyatt), b. 1881 person
correspondedWith Stokes, Anson Phelps, 1874-1958 person
associatedWith Terrell, Mary Church, 1863-1954. person
correspondedWith Wallace, Geneva person
correspondedWith Washington, Booker T., 1856-1915 person
correspondedWith Williams, Lacey Kirk, 1871-1941 person
correspondedWith Wood, Marguerite V. person
correspondedWith Yost, Ellis A., Mrs. person
correspondedWith Young, Geneva R. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Washington, D. C. DC US
Orange VA US
African Americans
African Americans
Community development
Community development
Civil rights workers
Religious leaders


Birth 1879-05-02

Death 1961-05-20



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