Not even Frederick Douglass could stop Myrtilla Miner from undertaking a dangerous mission: launching a teachers college for young Black women in Washington, D.C. While teaching plantation owners’ daughters in Mississippi, she was prevented from teaching enslaved people to read. A serious illness forced her to return north and change her strategy.
In 1851, Miner opened the Normal School for Colored Girls. Her first students were six daughters of freed slaves. Within months, more than 40 students were enrolled. She and her students persisted in the face of constant harassment and violence, including mobs trying to burn the school down. Though illness forced her to retire from teaching just six years later, and her original school was forced to close in 1860, the foundations she had laid for a school for Black teachers were revived after the Civil War. From Miner Normal School to Miner Teachers College to the University of the District of Columbia and the education department of Howard University, Miner’s legacy paved the way for thousands of Black teachers to enter public schools.