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Miner Teacher's College, Howard University; 2565 Georgia Avenue, NW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Normal School for Colored Girls opened in 1851, founded by Myrtilla Miner (1815-1864), while slavery was still legal in the District.  The only school in D.C. to provide education beyond the primary level to African-American students, the curriculum included history, philosophy, geography, literature, and astronomy, as well as classes in domestic skills, hygiene, and a science curriculum built around the close observation of nature.  Each student was assigned her own garden plot to tend, and Miner instituted a series of lectures by "professional and literary gentlemen."

Early financial support came from Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, a prominent Quaker, as well as his cousin, the author Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Dr. Gamaliel Bailey, editor of the abolitionist newspaper The National Era.  The school moved to a number of locations in its early years.

Miner, a white woman, wrote to a friend in 1852, "I love this school of mine profoundly, and have really no idea, when I am with them, that [my students] are not white, recognizing their spiritual more than their physical.  Some, indeed many, spirits with whom I come in contact here seem far darker than they."

Miner fended off numerous attacks on the school, including stonings, arson, and physical threats, by learning how to shoot a revolver.  Although often in frail health, Miner was a fierce advocate for her school.  She was also an energetic fundraiser until her early death in 1864.

D.C. Mayor Walter Lenox, in an article in the National Intelligencer, argued against the school, writing that it was not "humane to the colored population, for us to permit a degree of instruction so far beyond their political and social condition."  He continued, "With this superior education there will come no removal of the present disabilities, no new sources of employment equal to their mental culture; and hence there will be a restless population, less disposed than ever to fill that position in society which is allotted to them."

From the 1870s through World War II, Miner Teacher's College educated the majority of African American elementary school teachers employed by the D.C. schools.  According to historian Constance Green, the school offered "a better education than that available to most white children."

In 1863, with a new charter from the U.S. Senate, the school's name was changed to the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth.  Under the name Miner Normal School, it was associated with Howard University from 1871 to 1876. In 1929, an act of Congress accredited the school under the name Miner Teachers College.  It merged with the white teacher training school, Wilson Teachers College, in 1955, and changed its name to D.C. Teachers College.  That merged program was later incorporated with other institutions to form the University of the District of Columbia in 1976.

The Miner Building still serves as the School of Education at Howard University.  A plaque on the front honors Myrtilla Miner.