Roscoe Bruce, Black Educator Hall of Fame Member

Every day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with 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 Roscoe Conkling Bruce.

Roscoe C. Bruce was born on April 21, 1879 in Washington D.C. Bruce was the son of Blanche Bruce, a formerly enslaved person who was the second African American elected to the United States Senate—as a Republican from Mississippi—and the first to complete a full term from 1875 to 1881.

His mother, Josephine Beall Willson Bruce, was principal of the Tuskegee Institute from 1899-1902.  

Bruce was educated at Washington’s M Street High School and then at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. There, Bruce won distinction in scholarship and journalism, was a member of the Golden branch, the oldest to debating society in the country and was also one of the editors of the school’s student newspaper, the Exonian.

After high school, Bruce attended Harvard, where he graduated magna cum laud and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa Society upon graduation. Bruce was even elected class orator by the Harvard senior class defeating his white opponent by vote of 2 to 1.

While at Harvard, Bruce was known for his prowess as a debater. He won the Pasteur metal for debating in 1898, was one of three men chosen to represent Harvard in a debate against Princeton in 1899, and was selected to represent Harvard in the Harvard—Yale oratorical contest in 1900, where he was awarded the Coolidge debating prize.

Upon graduation, Bruce was offered the position of Academic Director by the Tuskegee Institute by none other than Booker T. Washington. In addition, Bruce taught numerous subjects. Upon leaving Tuskegee, Bruce excepted a position with the District of Columbia Public Schools as a supervising principal. A year later, Bruce was appointed as Assistant Superintendent of African American schools, a position Bruce held for 14 years.

Due to a controversy arising from photographs taken of Black students, Bruce resigned from his position and took charge of a project to organize high schools for African American students in West Virginia, later becoming principal of Browns Creek District High School in Kimball, West Virginia.

Throughout his career, Bruce stressed industrial education and the freedom that came from it. Bruce once said,

The Negro college… should enrich its curriculum by the addition of thorough courses in natural science with its applications to trade and industry; in history and social science with special attention to the traditions and progress of Negro peoples in Africa and in America, and to the sociological problems in which Negro life in America is enmeshed today.

The Negro college should render its curriculum flexible and more widely serviceable through the introduction of an elective system by the provisions of which the dead languages might give way to the living languages and history and social science, and advanced mathematics to psychology and ethics and the principles and practice of education.”

Roscoe Bruce; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.

For more information on Roscoe Bruce, visit the following site.


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