Rosetta Douglass Sprague, 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 Rosetta Douglass Sprague.

Rosetta Douglass Sprague was the daughter of famed activist and abolitionist Frederick Douglass and wife Anna Douglass. She was born in New Bedford, MA on June 24, 1839. As an abolitionist, educator, and social reformer, Rosetta Douglass continued a family legacy of activism that began in New Bedford.

At a young age, she was sent to Albany to learn how to read and write, and when she returned home, she successfully passed the entrance exam to an all-girls school in Rochester, NY. She was segregated from the other students, who were all white, to which her father (Frederick Douglass) successfully petitioned the Rochester school district. Unfortunately for Sprague, she was expelled due to the vote of a single white classmate.

Rochester desegregated their schools shortly thereafter.

From there, Sprague attended Oberlin College’s Preparatory Department where she learned how to become a teacher. From there, she trained further at New Jersey’s Salem Normal School and shortly thereafter, she began teaching there. After teaching school in New Jersey for a year and a half, Rosetta married Nathan Sprague (1839-1907), a self-liberated African American from Maryland, on December 24, 1863. They would have six children together.

Sprague learned about activism firsthand in her father’s office and as she learned the administrative tasks behind abolitionist and women’s rights causes, Rosetta developed a strong sense of racial justice and gender equality. Those lessons fueled Sprague to continue the fight for justice for Black people and (Black) women.

In the 1890s, after her father’s passing and spending several years as a homemaker and caregiver to her children, Sprague jumped back into activism—using her abilities as a writer and speaker. In 1896, she attended the first conference of the National Federation of Afro-American Women in Washington, D.C.; becoming a founding member of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, part of the clubwomen’s movement, a network of self-help groups launched by African American women.

On May 10, 1900, at the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Rosetta delivered her most notable speech, a paper entitled “Anna Murray Douglass – My Mother as I Recall Her,” a tribute to her mother’s role in the life of Frederick Douglass. Sprague said of her mother, “She was a woman who strove to inculcate in the minds of her children the highest principles of morality and virtue both by precept and example.”

Sprague brought out the little-known ways in which her mother’s loyalty and courage made possible the public achievements of her famous father, and what her beloved mother meant to her. Sprague died on November 25, 1906.

Rosetta Douglass Sprague; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.

For more information on Rosetta Douglass Sprague, visit the following site.


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