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    Seattle Public Schools Celebrates Black History Month
    Posted on 02/14/2019

    Seattle Public Schools Celebrates Black History Month

    Seattle Public Schools proudly recognizes Black History Month and the integral role our black community continues to play in our society. The district is committed to appreciating and learning from each individual’s unique background, with the recognition that equitable educational experiences arise through the elimination of opportunity gaps. Seattle Public Schools strives to advance a curriculum that honors black history, and the histories of all people, year-round.

    As we celebrate Black History Month, let us recognize the following individuals from our community and acknowledge their achievements and contributions to our country’s history. These leaders – ranging from educators, public servants, veterans, athletes, and activists – have made countless contributions to the City of Seattle, Washington state, and the country. We honor them for their dedicated work in enriching our community.


    Nora B. Adams (1928 – 2006)Photo of Nora Adams

    Nora B. Adams was the first African American female principal in Seattle Public Schools. She was a teacher at Casper W. Sharples Jr. High (now Aki Kurose Middle) and T.T. Minor Elementary and served as principal at T.T. Minor (1970), Bryant (1976-81), Sacajawea (1982-85), Dunlap (1984-87), and Seward (1989) elementary schools. Highly respected as an educator, she is further remembered for her financial contributions to education and health research. Adams donated over $1 million to scholarships and medical science.


    Harrison L. Caldwell (1909 – 1964)Photo of Harrison Caldwell

    After serving as vice principal at Roxhill Elementary during the school’s first year, Harrison Caldwell advanced to principal in 1956, becoming Seattle Public Schools’ first African American principal. He served at Roxhill Elementary for eight years. The Roxhill Elementary library is now named after the late principal. His son, Lynn Caldwell, retired from Seattle Public Schools in 2003 after serving for 18 years as principal of Eckstein Middle School.


    Vivian Caver (1928 – Present)Photo of Vivian Caver

    A Garfield High School graduate (1946) and former director of Seattle Human Rights Commission, Vivian Caver oversaw the implementation of Seattle’s nondiscrimination law, enforcement of affirmative action programs, and expansion of the growing rights revolution to protect women from discrimination. The civil rights activist was appointed to the Washington State Legislature in 1994, serving the 37th Legislative District as the third African American woman in the role.


    Thelma Dewitty (1912-1977)Photo of Thelma Dewitty

    In 1947, Thelma Dewitty became Seattle Public Schools’ first black educator, teaching 2nd grade at Frank B. Cooper School (now Youngstown Cultural Arts Center) from 1947 until 1953, thanks to support on her behalf from the Seattle Urban League, NAACP, Civic Unity Committee, and Christian Friends for Racial Equality. From 1947 until her retirement in 1973, Dewitty taught at John Jay (1953-55), Laurelhurst (1955-56), and Sandpoint (1956-58) elementary schools and at Meany Junior High School (1958-73).


    Larry Gossett (1945 – Present)Photo of Larry Gossett

    A graduate of Franklin High School, Larry Gossett was the first student at the University of Washington to graduate with a degree in African American Studies. He was the organizer of the Seattle Alliance of Black Student Unions and helped to organize nearly a dozen high school, middle school, and collegiate black student unions throughout the Seattle area. A highly respected community leader and current King County council member, Gossett has advocated for policy and programs to support underserved communities. In 1999, he spearheaded the campaign to adopt the image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr for King County’s official logo.


    Homer Harris Jr. (1916 – 2007)Photo of Homer Harris

    In 1933, Homer Harris Jr. became the first black captain of a football team in Seattle Public Schools at Garfield High. While attending the University of Iowa, he was voted most valuable player in the Big Ten Conference and became the Big Ten’s first black captain and the first black captain of any sport in the state. In 2002, the State of Washington declared November 13 to be Dr. Homer Harris Day, and the Seattle Parks Foundation announced a park in Seattle’s central area would be erected in his honor.


    Dorothy Hollingsworth (1920 – Present)Photo of Dorothy Hollingworth

    Dorothy Hollingsworth was the first black woman in Washington to serve on a school board, elected in 1975 to the Seattle School Board and serving as president in 1979. She served a six-year term and successfully guided the board during the period of school desegregation. Prior to her board tenure, in 1965, she became the first director of the district’s Head Start Program (first in Washington state), which she organized and established according to the guidelines of the federal government.


    Marjorie Pitter King (1921-1996)Photo of Marjorie Pitter King

    Garfield High School alum Marjorie Pitter King was the first African American woman to serve as a state legislator in Washington where she represented the 37th District in King County in 1965. She also was a successful businesswoman, operating M&M Accounting and Tax Service for 48 years.


    John Edmundson Prim (1898-1961)

    A Franklin High School graduate (1918), John Prim was the first African American to serve as deputy prosecuting attorney for King County and the first African American judge in Washington. He is a founding member of the Seattle Urban League and was the first African American member of the State Board of Prisons and Parole.



    John Stanford (1938-1998)Photo of John Stanford

    Former U.S. Army General John Stanford made history in 1995, becoming the first African American superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. During his tenure, dropout rates declined, and SAT scores rose across the district. Known for his strong leadership and charisma, he moved to end desegregation in busing, and in 1996 addressed the Democratic National Convention. Both the Seattle district office and former Latona School, now John Stanford International Elementary School, are now named after Stanford.


    Robert Terry (1926-2018)

    In 1950, Robert ‘Bob’ Terry became the first African American man to teach in the Seattle Public Schools. After teaching 6th grade at Warren Avenue School (site of Key Arena in Seattle Center), Terry taught at Summit School (now Northwest School) and Pacific School (site part of Seattle University campus). He then went on to serve as president of Seattle Central Community College (1976-1980) and chancellor of the Seattle Community College System before retiring.