For centuries, blacks have been dubbed degrading titles and subjected to untold torture by white supremacists for fear of them been found wanting. In efforts at ensuring status quo remained, education was to be a luxury dreamt of but never attained.
Breaking shackles and rewriting centuries of degrading assumptions and labels of servitude, Mary Jane Patterson made history in 1862 as the first African-American woman to receive a B.A degree from an accredited college in the United States – Oberlin College.
Although not well known, Mary Jane Patterson is a pioneer in education who paved way for other black female educators.
Born into slavery in 1840, her father who worked as a bricklayer and plasterer gained his freedom in 1852. At age 16, her family nursed high hopes of sending their children to college, they would eventually move to Ohio. In 1857 she completed a year of preparatory coursework at Oberlin College.
In 1862 history was made when Patterson bagged her Bachelor of Arts degree with high honors.
Three years upon completion of her studies in 1862, she was appointed a teacher assistant in the Female Department of the Institute of Colored Youth in Philadelphia..
She later taught at the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth, also making history as the school’s first black principal from 1871 to 1874.
Mary Jane Patterson was noted as a passionate advocate for women’s right and educational opportunities for black Americans.
She retired from being an educator in 1884. In 1894 at the age of 54, she passed on.
Gone but not forgotten, her legacy remains till this day.
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