Lost to History: African-American’s Views and Vision – On The Way To
An Improved America
Project Objective: To Recognize Her Contributions & Perpetuate Her Legacy

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African-American History Education
based in Annapolis, Maryland

Dr. Earl Harrison, who knew Nannie Helen Burroughs personally, describes her in his book, The Dream and the Dreamer: "She was far above average in quick, intelligent thinking. She was courageous, charming and dynamic to the point that she was irresistible to the open-minded and contemptible to the jealous and prejudiced." My study of Nannie Helen Burroughs confirmed that there were no clear lines in her thinking on religious, educational, political and social issues.

We are beholden to the past.
We are shaping the present.
We are responsible for the future.

- Monmouth County NJ Women's Business Club - Circa 1950

Know our History

Our History Our Culture

Colonel (Ret.) James E. Wyatt founded the Nannie Helen Burroughs Project in 2010, based on Frederick Douglass' quote,
"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men" 
Burroughs was an advocate of Frederick Douglass. She taught our children How to Think, as opposed to what to think. From the time she graduated from M Street School (Now Dunbar High School) in Washington, DC, she faced, fought, and overcame many of the same societal obstacles confronting us today. Circa 1950, she published a pamphlet entitled, A National Crusade Working To Improve America. Nannie was convinced that the character of our people, as a nation, was shaped by the training our children received in the home, church and school. She understood that the children of today of ALL RACES are the parents, teachers, preachers, politicians and policemen/women of tomorrow. My most difficult task, and yet most successful and enjoyable, since starting the project was presenting to the 1st graders at Georgetown East Elementary School in Annapolis, Maryland. I was frightened to death and they were wonderful. They joined me in reading the poem "DO IT" by Edgar Guest and we sang "The Nannie Helen Burroughs Song" - click on the bullet.

The Nannie Helen Burroughs Song

Burroughs' approach to fighting racism and discrimination was to fight unjust actions and behavior, while simultaneously seeking areas of cooperation between the races. She was balanced in her views and actions. Most significantly, however, was the fact that her directness and "truth-telling" took people out of their comfort-zone. By way of emphasis, our black leaders of today might consider using the roadmap given to us by Burroughs as they fight racism and discrimination. 

Nannie Helen Burroughs of the National Baptist Convention and Una Roberts Lawrence of the Southern Baptist Convention were working cooperatively in the 1930s to solve the racial tensions of the day. Who are the Burroughses and Lawrences working cooperatively to solve the racial tensions of today?

Author Karen Smith best describes Burroughs in her writing, A Voice for Social Reform. She writes that Burroughs came from poverty and from a context of double marginalization: by race and sex.  That double marginalization came in both church and society.  But it did not seem to make her angry.  She refused to accept it, but would take progress in stages.  She was pragmatic in her "revolutionary patience" (Dorothee Soelle), but all compromises were temporary--stages to further gains later. Burroughs is described as constantly pushing for change while working within the system. 

For instance, she supported Booker T. Washington's program of educating most African-Americans as mechanics and farmers, etc. It wasn't that she didn't want doors of higher education open or for a "talented tenth" (W.E.B. du Bois' term) to rise to the highest levels of society and compete with Whites on their own terms.  It was just that Burroughs knew that the majority of Blacks were not ready for that.  A generation ago they were slaves who could be punished by death for even daring to learn to read. 

She wanted social advancement  for the majority of her race--without ever losing sight of the goal of pure equality.  But a majority of self-sufficient shoppers, mechanics, and small farmers would at least not be in poverty or prison, even if they were not yet in the finest universities. Burroughs showed that she embraced the views of both Washington and du Bois, establishing a Bi-lateral  Education curriculum in the school she established in 1909 for Negro women and girls. For example, the students studied Home-making courses as well as Latin.  The school also may be considered as the first educational institution with Black History studies, primarily attributable to Burroughs' close relationship with Carter G. Woodson.

I conclude that Nannie Helen Burroughs' life and actions represent a composite of several great Black personalities. She was a family friend and mentor to Dr. King, a friend and admirer of Booker T. Washington and an advocate for Frederick Douglass.

"A race rises on its own wings, or is held down by its own weight." 

- Nannie Helen Burroughs

Nannie Helen Burroughs, Black Activist in Annapolis, MD
Nannie Helen Burroughs (1879 - 1961)

Contact us today in Annapolis, Maryland, for details about this heroic black leader.