Olivia A. Davidson, Black Educator Hall of Fame Member

Every day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with Phillys7thWard.org and Citizen Ed, will highlight a Black Educator Hall of Famer. But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History MonthFebruary is just the Blackest.

Today, our featured Black Educator is Olivia America Davidson Washington.

Olivia A. Davidson Washington was born in Mercer County, Virginia on June 11, 1854. The seventh of ten children, Washington attended school in Ohio, where the family was moved to in 1857, at the Enterprise Academy, which was owned, operated, and controlled by African American educators.

Davidson began teaching at the age of sixteen in Ohio and at the age of 18 she moved to Mississippi to teach freed people and their children. After two years in Mississippi and four years of teaching in the Memphis Public School system she enrolled at Hampton Normal A & I in Virginia in the fall of 1878.

The ambitious program at Hampton included the study of reading, English literature, algebra, bookkeeping, history, political economy, elements of agriculture, civil government, grammar, chemistry, and the Bible. In May of 1879, Davidson gave the commencement address for her class on the “Decision of Character.”

The day of her commencement was the day she met Booker T. Washington (class of 1875), who was the postgraduate speaker at the ceremony. Both would work alongside each other to help build up Tuskegee Institute into a premier higher education institute for Black students. In 1881, Davidson answered the call and began working at Tuskegee as both a teacher and administrator.

In 1886, Davidson married Booker T. Washington.

While at Tuskegee, Davidson was instrumental in organizing local fund-raising efforts and traveling to the North whenever necessary, utilizing contacts she had made while a student at Framingham, where she engaged in post-bachelor studies for teaching. Davidson also utilized her vast experiences as a teacher.

Davidson served Tuskegee as a teacher, curriculum specialist, principal, fund-raiser, and builder, in addition to being Washington’s wife and confidant.

In the position of lady principal, she oversaw the female students in all aspects of their on-campus lives—dormitory living, industrial work, and class work and as the equal partner of Booker T. Washington in the administration of the school, her influence was felt everywhere; he credited her above everyone else with Tuskegee Institute’s success.

Oliva A. Davidson Washington; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.

For more information on Olivia A. Davidson, visit the following site.


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