Monday, February 24, 2014

BHM2014 - Georgiana Simpson

**For those of you who think you are too old to break ground and make a difference, I present Ms. Georgiana Simpson**

Three African American women earned PhDs at American Universities in 1921; they were the first African American women to do so. Georgiana Simpson was one. She received her degree in German from the University of Chicago in 1921, the same year that Sadie Tanner Mossell became the first black woman to be awarded the degree (from the University of Pennsylvania) and Eva Beatrice Dykes became the third to achieve the honor (from Howard University). Simpson was by far the oldest of the three.  She was fifty-five years old when the degree was conferred.

Georgiana Simpson was born in Washington, D.C. in 1866, where she attended public schools. She was then trained at a District of Columbia Normal School which prepared her to teach in the elementary schools in the city beginning in 1885. Encouraged by one of her former instructors, Dr. Lucy E. Moten, Sampson decided to spend a year and a half studying language and literature in Germany. After earning her B.A. in German language and literature at the University of Chicago in 1911, she returned to Washington, D.C. to teach at M. Street School, later Dunbar High School. 

Simpson first enrolled at the University of Chicago in 1907, and experienced racism almost immediately upon her arrival at the campus. Several white Southern female students protested Simpson being allowed to live in their dorm and a number of them moved out. Simpson, like other African American students at the school, often took summer courses to avoid interaction with white students as much as possible. She even took many of her courses via correspondence to limit her time on campus.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in 1911, Simpson returned to the University in 1917 to undertake her postgraduate studies in German philology, focusing on German romanticism. She was in residency on campus during the Chicago Race Riots of 1919.  Her presence, however, continued to generate controversy.  In 1920 University of Chicago President Harry Pratt insisted that Simpson find an alternative residence off campus. She was fifty-four years old at the time. Her situation sparked a national debate as to how African American students should be accommodated at top universities. Simpson, however, left the University of Chicago campus.
Nonetheless in 1921, she received her Ph.D.  Simpson immediately returned to high school teaching in Washington, D.C.  The fame and respect she garnered following her graduation eventually led Howard University to offer her a professorship in 1931. Simpson was sixty-five when she became a university professor.  She remained a member of the faculty until 1939.  Georgiana Simpson never married.  She died in her home in Washington, D.C. in 1944.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...