Torch Bearers in Education and Science

Education has been a key element in the survival growth and development of African American individuals and communities. The quest for education be it formal or informal has been a fact of life for African Americans wherever they have lived in this hemisphere. People of African descent, be they enslaved or free placed a very high value on education, because they knew that without the ability to read, write and calculate for themselves, they would be vulnerable to the oppressive forces that surrounded them. Those forces were also clear that the education of people of African descent ran counter to efforts to enslave, control, and exploit black people. Thus, the education of African American people has been achieved by struggle and that struggle has required educational leaders like those celebrated remembered with the monuments in this page. As is often the case, some of the leaders depicted here are well known for their endeavors in other fields. For instance, George Washington Carver is best known as a scientist and inventor, yet he was also an educator. Booker T. Washington was know as an educator and as an advocate for racial uplift. Mary McCloud Bethune might be best known today for her political activism and leadership. However, they were also torch bearers, leading lights, in the field of education.

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Octavius V. Cato

Born in Charleston, SC Octavius Cato lived his adult life in Philadelphia, PA. He was an intellectual, educator, athlete, and activist, who advocated for African American equal rights, especially voting rights in the post-Civil War era. Octavius Cato was murdered on a Philadelphia street by a white gunman on election day 1871.

Octavius V. Cato Monument,
Philadelphia, PA

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W. E.B. Du Bois

The first African American to earn a PH.D, W.E.B. Du Bois was a sociologist, historian and economist. Along with others, he co- founded the NAACP.

 W.E.B. Du Bois Monument
Accra, Ghana

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Booker T. Washington

Founder of Tuskegee Institute (University) and Advisor to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Howard Taft, Booker T. Washington was an outspoken advocate for industrial and agricultural education as a way forward for African Americans in the post-Civil War era.

Booker T. Washington Monument
Morgan State College, Baltimore, MD

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Maggie Lena Walker

The first African American Woman to charter a bank and the first African American bank president, Maggie Lena Walker was an advocate against racism, sexism and economic injustice.

Maggie Lena Walker Monument,
Richmond, VA
Photograph by Michael Black

George Washington  Carver

Scientist, inventor, educator, George Washington Carver's childhood home in Diamond, MO was the first African American site to to be named as a national monument by the National Park Service.  

George Washington Carver Monument Missouri Botanical Garden
St. Louis, MO

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Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune, (1875-1955) a prominent educator and civil rights activist was the founder of Bethune College (later Bethune- Cookman College) and the National Council of Negro Women.

Mary McLeod Buthune Monument 
Washington, DC

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Benjamin Mays

Benjamin Mays is credited with laying the intellectual foundation of the mid-20th Century Civil Rights Movement. While he served as President of Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA from 1940-1967, he mentored many movement activists including The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Benjamin Mays Monument
Morehouse College
Atlanta, GA

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