Nellie Morrow Parker, Black Educator Hall of Fame

E’ry day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with, will highlight a Black Educator Hall of Famer.

But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History Month. February is just the Blackest.

Today, our featured Black educator is Nellie Morrow Parker.

Nellie M. Parker was born in Hackensack, NJ on August 27, 1902.

Despite Parker’s father, John E. Morrow, fighting for his children, Parker and her siblings were made to attend a Black elementary school, located outside her neighborhood as a result of racial segregation. Although the family lived in New Jersey, New Jersey—particularly northern New Jersey where Parker was located—was known for its hostility towards Black people.

For context, New Jersey was considered the “slave state of the North.” The support for enslavement was stronger in New Jersey than in any other state. The support was so strong that as many as 400 Black people remained in some form of enslavement after the end of the Civil War.

This is because New Jersey was the last northern state to end enslavement, ratifying the 13th amendment in 1866 (after previously rejecting it). New Jersey was so anti-Black that the state that after ratifying the 14th amendment, which provided Black people with equal protection under the laws as whites, the state rescinded its ratifying the amendment; finally, it was re-ratified in 2003.

Parker attended and graduated from Hackensack High School and entered Montclair Normal School (now Montclair State University), where she received her teaching certificate. Parker was hired by the Hackensack School District and became the first Black public school teacher in Bergen County, New Jersey in 1922. She was hired to teach fifth and sixth grades.

This happened despite community and Board of Education members’ outrage over the hiring of an African-American school teacher.

During her early years of teaching, Parker and her family were subject to criticism by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Knights of Columbus, and harassment by the Ku Klux Klan.  The Klan paraded through the town and burned a cross in a lot at the corner of Second and Berry Streets, adjacent to the Morrow home. Some Black people themselves objected to the hiring of a Black teacher.

When approached with calls for her to move south to teach or leave teaching altogether, Parker replied, “It’s too bad if one little colored girl can be such a bother to you.” 

However, Parker was supported by school superintendent Dr. William Stark, who had given her a practice teaching position during her senior year in college, and finally a teaching contract once she graduated. A man Parker’s brother described as having a “New England conscience,” convinced the Board of Education to give Parker a teaching contract.

She remained in the Hackensack School District for 42 years, retiring at age 69.

Parker was also a founding member of Black Women’s Business and Professional Organization and helped establish the Mary McLeod Bethune Scholarship Fund. In 1981, the Hackensack Board of Education renamed the Maple Hill School, The Nellie K. Parker Elementary School in her honor. Parker passed away in 1998 in Huntington Beach, CA.

Nellie K. Parker; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.

For more information on Nellie K. Parker, visit the following site.



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