Nannie Helen Burroughs Project
Lost to History and the Black Church: One African American Woman's Views on How to Make Our Country a Better Place. "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” – George Orwell’s 1949 published novel, “1984” Project Goal: For the sake of the future of our children and country, to interject Nannie Helen Burroughs’ views (Christian living, critical-thinking, search for common ground) into today’s divisive racial, political and educational rhetoric.

About the Founder and Project History

Colonel Wyatt graduated at 15 from Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia in 1949. He attended Florida A and M College (FAMC), where he was a chemistry major, on a band scholarship, wanting to play professional baseball. At FAMC, he was president of his senior class, student government, "Marching 100" Band and ROTC Commandant of FAMC's second four-year program. Jim has a 1962 MS Degree from Purdue University in Industrial Management.  And he is a graduate of virtually all of the Department of Defense senior officer educational institutions, including the Army Logistics Management School, the Defense Systems Management College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. In his last military assignment, 1975-79, Colonel Wyatt was program manager for a multi-billion dollar communications system. He was the only black program manager from among sixty such positions in the U.S. Army. Subsequent to retirement, he worked in the international communications business until 2006 and then played golf three times a week...until discovering Nannie Helen Burroughs.  

Colonel Wyatt constantly and consistently makes the point that he is not an historian or educator, and he is appeciative and in awe of the volumes of work published by our women scholars about Nannie Helen Burroughs.  He has simply taken on the task of acting as a conduit to further project this important work into the community. Help from every possible source is needed, sought and appreciated. I applaud the ASALH for including the contributions of our “Women Builders”, “The Fab 4 of Education”, in the design of the Carter G. Woodson Center.

The Forgotten Sisters and Woodson

Meaningful Work

Colonel Wyatt acknowledges that his mother would now be extremely proud of his work about Nannie Helen Burroughs. Daisy Wyatt, like Burroughs, always emphasized the importance of good behavior, strong character and humility. She often spoke of the happiest day of her life being the one when teachers from Booker T. said to her: " Mrs. Wyatt, we are honored to meet you. You had four boys come through this high school and we never had a single problem with any one of them."  Jestfully, Jim says that his mother must have been buddies with Nannie Helen Burroughs, because Nannie said: "Everything in the modern household is controlled by switches, except the children"  Jim states that he knew that his mother was much like Dr. William Holmes Borders stated in his poem: "I Am Somebody---I am a moulder of character in Nannie Burroughs." Jim makes a point of emphasizing  that standards of conduct in the Wyatt household were  established and implemented by his mother.  She was simply emblematic of our Black women, who were the driving force in our communities on the issues of faith and family. Burroughs seemed to make this point in her message, of that era, to our black men.  Does it apply today?

As suggested above and throughout discussions about Nannie Helen Burroughs' life and "meaningful work" the orientation is on the role of women in our society. Her greatest contribution could be stated as founding The National Trade School for Negro Women and Girls. Therefore, I can say with pride and confidence that the project received "a shot-in-the-arm" with the addition of an exceptionally talented woman. The former Ms. Patricia Williams, a native New York City, joined the project when she and Colonel Wyatt were united in marriage.

The now Mrs. Patricia Wyatt is an apprentice of the NHB National Christian Educational Retreat-Summer Institute, Class of ‘68 while under the leadership of former Dr. Rebekah J. Calloway and Dr. Aurelia R. Downey. Dr. Downey notes the institute in her book, A Tale of Three Women.

Patricia’s compassion, advocacy work and outcome of the NHB training in 1969 guided her to missionary in field services in Puerto Rico and Haiti to young mothers under Lott Carey Foreign Missions. Inspired by her experience and training she established and operated as the sole proprietor a second chance residential facility for pregnant adolescents and teenage mothers with their children in eastern North Carolina; Cenovia’s House for Teenage Mothers.

Patricia named the home in honor of her godmother, Annie Cenovia Shelton, Corresponding Secretary to the New York Chapter of the Women’s Auxiliary, NBC. Miss Cenovia labored alongside Miss Burroughs with great admiration. It is notable that Nannie Helen Burroughs spearheaded the 1902 establishment of the Women’s Auxiliary to the National Baptist Convention. She assumed the role of corresponding secretary and served until 1948, when she became president, in an unpaid position, traveled 32,000 miles spreading the word about the organization.

Patricia’s life-long passion for learning includes studies at American and Howard Universities, Purdue Concord School of Law, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Organizational Management from St. Augustine’sUniversity in Raleigh, North Carolina, and a master’s degree in public administration from Strayer University. She holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management, and her career has extended throughout the north and southeastern regions for corporate, government and nonprofit organizations. Patricia is a retired educator and instructed students for public and private school districts (k-12) in special education, computer sciences and to include high school administration.

James E. Wyatt, African-American History in Annapolis, MD James E. Wyatt, African-American History in Annapolis, MD

Project History

I had never heard of Nannie Helen Burroughs until 2008, when I found myself driving down Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue in northeast Washngton, DC on my way to  Langston Golf Course.  When I asked my golfing buddies who was this woman to have a street named after her, they replied vaguely that she had founded a school here in Washington, DC.  Curious to know more, I visited the campus a few days later.  There I discovered that she established the National Training School for Women and Girls in 1909 and had been a contemporary of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and James Weldon Johnson. Clearly a woman of substance, I wanted to know more. This led me to her papers archived at the Library of Congress and a two-year study of her life.  The end result was The Nannie Helen Burroughs Project. Prior to discovering Nannie Helen Burroughs, I had been playing golf an average of three times a week for fifty-three years. After my first day at the Library of Congress, I quit golf for two years studying Nannie Helen Burroughs’ life

On the Home Page, I spoke about Nannie Helen Burroughs tasking Mary Alice Dorsett to share her message with the people.  I learned about their ongoing relationship during the 2010 convention of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.  I attended the convention to expand upon my knowledge of Burroughs, because she had been a close associate of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who founded the organization in 1915. A 1933 letter substantiates their relationship.  It reads, "My Dear Miss Burroughs: At the special meeting called last evening to work out the details for the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and were chosen Secretary of the General Committee.  Other persons were suggested as chairmen of the various sub-committees...It was definitely decided, however, that you be chosen as Secretary of the entire Committee. Respecfully yours, C.G. Woodson, Director"  Dr. Woodson established Black History Week in 1926, and it was expanded to Black History Month in 1976 by President Ford.  Because of Miss Burroughs close association with Dr. Woodson  and understanding of the importance of our history, her students were required to take a Negro history class, using books owned by Carter G. Woodson.    

An attendee at the convention from Tampa, Florida told me how Miss Dorsett constantly spoke about Nannie Helen Burroughs.  Upon introducing myself to Miss Dorsett by phone, she immedietly became my new best friend, requesting that I give my Nannie Helen Burroughs presentation on her birthday and then again at her funeral, which I did in February 2011 at her 85th birthday party in Tampa. Blessingly, God gave her seven more years, and I spoke about Nannie Helen Burroughs at her Home Going Service in November 2017. She was a constant source of encouragement, insisting that God has me on a mission to bring Nannie Helen Burroughs' message to the people.

Most importantly about the convention was Dr. Bettye Collier-Thomas introducing her book,  Jesus, Jobs and Justice.  This detailed and powerful coverage of Nannie Helen Burroughs and Black women of all religious denominations is but one of the many sources I have used in my work. I want all of the historians whose work I have used to know that I am thankful and in awe of their research and presentations. Again, I am not an historian or educator, just one who believes that Nannie Helen Burroughs' message has not been disseminated to, as she calls them, "the masses"  I am simply trying to act as a conduit to achieve that goal, a message which I believe has been set forth scholarly and powerfully in the many documentations of her life and works.

While the project concentrates on the life and works of Nannie Nelen Burroughs, the message for the future of our children is also that of her three sisters in education. Nannie Helen Burroughs, Charlotte Hawkins Brown and Mary McLeod Bethune are known as "The 3 B's of Education"  who took their lead from the matriarch, Lucy Craft Laney.  Bethune is well-known;  but as with Burroughs, I had never heard of Brown until seeing her school's historic sign in 2010 on Route 85, just south of Greenboro, NC.  Again, my curiosity took over and I exited onto Route 70 and drove the few miles to Sedalia, the site of the historic Palmer Memorial Institute.  I vividly remember proudly announcing myself to Mrs. Wiley, the Director, as Colonel Wyatt of The Nannie Helen Burroughs Project, wherein she gladly and gracely produced "The 3 B's of Education" post card.  Again, I was reminded of the need for humility.  In her 1950/1952 book, What Do You Think/Think On These ThingsBurroughs dedicated a chapter to: The Only Way To World PeaceShe spoke of Eighteen Virtues and declared: "Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues. It leads to the highest distinction because it leads to self-improvement"  I encourage you to google Dr. Gladys West, the woman who is credited with inventing the GPS. Her story reads: "West's humble character is part of why many people were unaware of her role in the development of the device for decades..."

Contact us in Annapolis, Maryland, to learn about a powerful woman in African-American history.