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Posts Tagged ‘Haines Normal and Industrial Institute’

“Lucy Laney is an excellent builder. Her contribution to American life is that of building character.”     Attorney James C. Waters, Former Secretary of the Law School, Howard University.

Lucy Craft Laney was a true builder of society. Remembered as the founder and principal of the Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia for fifty years, Lucy is one of the most famous educators in the United States. She founded the first kindergarten and the first nurses’ training school in Georgia.

Lucy Craft Laney was born a slave in 1854 in Macon, Georgia. She spent most of her childhood in Savannah where her father, Reverend David Laney was a preacher or exhorter. He became an ordained Presbyterian minister and pastored a church. Lucy’s mother, Louise was a very godly woman who raised not only her own large brood of children but took in the Laney cousins and many orphans. Lucy loved being around other children. She would continue to love the company of children her whole life long.

Lucy was very bright and was taught to read at the age of four by Miss Campbell, the master’s sister. Miss Campbell recognized Lucy’s giftedness and in spite of the local prejudice against blacks undertook to educate Lucy herself. Thanks to Miss Campbell Lucy was later able to attend Atlanta University at the tender age of fifteen. In 1873 Lucy was a member of the first graduating class of Atlanta University. She then began a teaching career in Savannah.

After teaching for 10 years, Lucy began her own school in the basement of Christ Presbyterian church in Augusta. On the first morning there were six pupils, three little girls, one older girl, and two boys. At first, Lucy had only wanted to take girls but her heart was too big for poor children and she accepted many underprivileged boys. When the boy would show up at her door, Lucy had the gift to see past the child’s raggedness to what the boy could become.

By the end of the first year Lucy had 75 students. At the end of the second year she reported 234. In 1886, Lucy visited the Presbyterian Board’s annual meeting to seek funds. The Board was impressed with her work but only voted to give her the funds to get home. However, while attending the Board conference Lucy made friends with Mrs. Francine Haines who would become a great benefactor. The little school which had been called Miss Laney’s school was renamed in honor of Mrs. Haines. Later it would be chartered and named the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute.

By 1893 the institution had become a large boarding school, furnishing a home for 60 – 70 girls and some rented cottages for 15 – 20 boys. In 1906 an administration building, McGregor Hall was erected. Miss Laney believed that girls should get a good education for a teaching career but should also be self-sufficient. Therefore, the school ran a model garden.

Soon the school would boast 26 teachers and 713 students. Graduates would go on to attend Atlanta University, Fisk U., Howard U., Shaw U., and Taladega College. Her students would be found in all walks of life throughout the United States.

One of Lucy’s most important contributions to the community was the introduction of trained nurses into Atlanta. Lucy convinced the city to give her an old “pest house” where patients with infectious diseases were kept, to use as a hospital. She brought a white trained nurse from Canada to be superintendent. Ten girls at Haines studied nursing. Later when the city built a new two-hundred bed hospital, one of these colored girls was made its superintendent.

Besides all of her work at the school, Lucy was involved with efforts to alleviate the prejudice against blacks in her community. She helped to found the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1918. She was active in the Interracial Commission, the National Association of Colored Women, and the Niagara Movement. She helped integrate into the community the work of the YMCA and the YWCA. Many prominent blacks were her friends including Madame C. J. Walker (see post 5/2/17) and Mary McLeod Bethune (story posted on 4/11/17).

In recognition of her accomplishments Lucy was awarded the degree of Master of Arts by Lincoln University in 1904; by her alma mater, Atlanta University, in 1923; by South Carolina State College in 1925; and by Howard University in 1930.

Lucy passed away in 1933. In 1974, she was honored to have her portrait placed in the Georgia state capitol by Governor Jimmy Carter, along with portraits of Rev. Henry McNeal Turner and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lucy’s portrait bears tribute to “the mother of the children of the people,” …. a woman who knew that “God didn’t use any different dirt to make me than the first lady of the land.” Lucy was inducted into the Georgia Women of Achievement in 1992.

I really love looking at old pictures of people and I found this wonderful video on You Tube. You will get a few more details of Lucy’s story as well as the enjoyment of seeing much that can be explained better in pictures than in my short biography. I know you will really enjoy this story of a truly great American educator. It’s a little over 9 minutes long and the production is professionally done. Author – Tina Calhoun.

https://youtu.be/lRiEJdz6tco

You should also consider checking out the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History if you are ever in Augusta.

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