By Unknown and Diane Galatowitsch
Creator: Williams, Fannie C. (1882-1980)
Extent: 1.8 Linear Feet
Arrangement: The Fannie C. Williams papers is arranged into three series: Fannie C. Williams, the Claiborne Branch of the YWCA in New Orleans, and Education and Other Materials.
Date Acquired: 02/01/1972. More info below under Accruals.
The papers of Fannie C. Williams encompass 1.8 linear feet and reflect her career and life commitment to African American education and work with young people in New Orleans, most notably between 1908 and 1954, when she served as a teacher and principal in the New Orleans public school system. Overall, the collection is a valuable resource for the topics of African American education, the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in New Orleans, as well as youth and community development. The photographs from the Claiborne Branch of the YWCA are the strongest part of the collection, as they illustrate Williams' commitment to holistic child development and education. Correspondence is not a strong part of the collection, with letters being short and brief. However, correspondents include Karl H. Berns, Ruth Brownlee, Samuel DuBois Cook, Paul L. Hyde, Irma L. Kramer, Mimi Sherrouse, Mack J. Spears, Edgar B. Stern, Carole Taylor, V.C. Thornton, and Whitney M. Young, Jr.
Fannie C. Williams, 1882-1980, was the principal at Valena C. Jones Elementary and Normal Schools in New Orleans, Louisiana from about 1921-1954. Williams was a pioneer in African American education and public schools in the South and she served on many boards for a variety of local organizations, as well as participated in conferences hosted by three American presidents. Williams was widely respected as a principal and was devoted to professional development, which motivated her students and teachers to pursue higher education and higher-level positions in the school systems across the country.
Fannie C. Willliams was born in Biloxi, Mississippi on March 23, 1882, as one in a family with seven children. Williams first came to New Orleans to attend high school and later graduated from the College Preparatory and Normal Departments of Straight College (now Dillard University) in 1904.
Williams began her career along the gulf coast in Mississippi between 1904 and 1908, but she soon moved back to New Orleans where she spent the majority of her life committed to education. Shortly after her return to New Orleans she started teaching at Fisk Elementary School. Due to her outstanding work at Fisk, Hattie V. Feger, the principal at Miro School requested Williams transfer to teach at her school in 1912.
In the fall of 1917, Williams became the interim principal of Miro School while Hattie Feger was on leave, studying at the University of Cincinnati. It was during this period that the name of the school changed from Miro School to the Valena C. Jones School.
The next year, Williams decided to return to university to further her education and between 1918 and 1920, Williams attended Michigan State Normal School (later named Eastern Michigan University) in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She graduated in 1920 with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Pedagogy. After graduating, she taught in Albion, Michigan from 1920-1921. However, in the spring of 1921, Williams returned to Biloxi, Mississippi because her mother was seriously ill.
After Williams' mother died that spring, Williams returned to New Orleans and became the principal of Valena C. Jones Elementary School in April of 1921. Between 1931 and 1939, while working as the principal of the elementary school, she also held a simultaneous appointment as the principal of the Valena C. Jones Normal School, which was located in the same building as the elementary school. At the time, the normal school certified African American teachers for work in the New Orleans Public Schools. In 1939 Williams left her position as the principal of the normal school , when the state discontinued the certification program and started requiring a four-year college degree for teacher certification.
Overall, Williams was a pioneer in the field of African American education in the South as she worked for holistic development of children, which included mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. For instance, at the Valena C. Jones School, she started a health program in 1929 that culminated in the creation and celebration of Child Health Day on May 1. This program celebrated the health activities of students during the year. The students of her school were also encouraged to be involved in the community. Williams organized students to bring baskets of flowers to the sick and elderly. She also motivated healthy eating habits for her students. The children were encouraged to drink milk, eat hot lunches, and not drink soft drinks at school. Furthermore, she motivated two dentists in the community to render their services free of charge to students of the school. Additionally, in the early 1930s, Williams opened a nursery school and kindergarten at the school. This preschool was the first of its kind for African Americans in New Orleans. Moreover, Williams promoted quality testing for her students to measure success long before the New Orleans School Board started requiring testing. Williams initiated the "Parents Study Group" in the 1940s with the aid of Family Services to test her pupils with the assistance of experts. Williams also included travel experiences for students, with trips to Tuskegee, Baton Rouge, the Gulf Coast, as well as to Audubon Park in New Orleans. She was also instrumental, along with others, in getting African American girls of New Orleans into Scouting. Troop 99 of the Valena C. Jones School was the first African American troop in the city.
As well as being committed to her students, Williams encouraged professional growth and instilled in her teaching the importance of excelling and accomplishing goals. This motivated many of the school's teachers to pursue higher education and administrative positions as principals across the country. Nine of the Valena C. Jones School's teachers became principals of New Orleans schools, one became a supervisor, one became a consultant, two went into sight saving, one specialized in speech, and another became a teacher of convalescent children at Charity Hospital. Of particular note, one teacher moved to Oakland, California and became the first African American principal of a senior high school.
Throughout her long career, Williams was involved with summer teacher training and in-service programs throughout the South. She taught teachers during the summer at the Tuskegee Institute, Southern University, Alabama State College, West Virginia Institute, and other colleges in Mississippi. Additionally, she was in great demand as a consultant for in-service workshops and worked in Meridian, Mississippi; Knoxville, Tennesse; Gramblind State College, LA; and Tougaloo College, Mississippi.
Along with education, Williams was committed to community development. She was an organizer, charter member, and first president of the Board of Management of the African American Branch of the New Orleans YWCA. Additionally, Williams served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Orleans Neighborhood Center; the Family Service Society; the Girl Scouts; the American Red Cross; Community Chest, a child development center; and Flint Goodridge Hospital. She was also a member of the advisory committee for the Department of Public Welfare. Williams was a member of the Central Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ in New Orleans for over 50 years. Within the church, she served for many years as superintendent of the church school, president, as well as a life deaconess.
Furthermore, Williams was involved in broader national and community conferences and boards that promoted education, health, and housing. Williams participated in three White House conferences between 1930 and 1950, the Conference on Child Health and Protection called by President Hoover; a conference on Housing called by President Roosevelt; and the Mid-Century Conference held by President Truman. She was also a trustee of Straight College until it became Dillard University and then served on that board between 1936 and 1960, as a representative for the American Missionary Association. Additionally, she served as the president of the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools, an integrated group that later became the American Teachers Association until it merged with the National Education Association (NEA) in 1966.
After Williams retired from Valena C. Jones Elementary School in 1954, she continued to work in education and community development. In particular, she was a private tutor of disabled children, illiterate adults, and Hispanics learning to read English. She also volunteered in an adult education program sponsored by the Council of Jewish Women. Additionally, Williams traveled widely in the United States, Mexico, and Europe throughout her life.
She was a member of a variety of organizations, including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the graduate chapter of Alpha Beta Omega, the National Education Association (NEA), Department of Elementary School Principals, National Association for the Study of Education and the YWCA, as well as a member of the National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA).
Throughout her career, Williams received honors for her commitment to African American education. In response to her great efforts, many distinguished persons, usually visitors to New Orleans, accepted invitations to visit the Valena C. Jones School, including Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune. Additionally, Dillard University honored her by opening Fannie C. Williams Hall in 1946 and in 1950, there was a public testimonial honoring Williams that was held during the American Education Week Observance in New Orleans. She also received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Dillard Alumni Association in 1961. In 1977, she was the recipient of the Past President's Award from the American Teacher's Association and the National Education Association.
Williams died in New Orleans on June 12, 1980 at the age of 98.
Access Restrictions: The Fannie C. Williams papers are open and available for use.
Use Restrictions: Copyright to these papers has not been assigned to the Amistad Research Center. It is the responsibility of an author to secure permission for publication from the holder of the copyright to any material contained in this collection.
Acquisition Source: Fannie C. Williams and Lucille Hutton
Acquisition Method: Gift
Appraisal Information: The papers of Fannie C. Williams reflect her career and life commitment to African American education and work with young people in New Orleans. The papers document her educational career, most notably between 1908 and 1954, when she served as a teacher and principal in the New Orleans Public Schools.
Alpha Kappa Sorority. Heritage Series. 1968-1971. No. 1-4.
Brimmer, Andrew F., et al. The Neglected Black Majority: Essays on the Attitudes and Concerns of Some Forgotten Americans. A.P. Randolph Educational Fund, 1971.
Brownlee, Frederick L. Contemporary Antiquities. New York: American Press, 1958.
Oedel, Howard T. and Holbrook, Florence B. Daniel Hand of Madison, Connecticut, 1801-1891. The Madison Historical Society, 1973.
Related Materials: The Amistad Research Center holds several other collections related to the topic of African American educators, including the James Egert Allen papers, 1917-1976; the Jesse Cornelius Crump papers, 1928-1985; as well as the Lucile L. Hutton papers, 1850-1988. Additionally, the Amistad Research Center holds the papers for the American Missionary Association, which Fannie C. Williams represented on the Board of Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Preferred Citation: Fannie C. Williams papers, Amistad Research Center, New Orleans, Louisiana
Processing Information: The processing of this collection was completed in October, 1987.
Finding Aid Revision History: Additional description and preservation was completed on the collection in July-August 2011.