Black History Fun Fact Friday – Lucy Craft Laney

Welcome back to Black History Fun Fact Friday. Today, we learn about Lucy Craft Laney.

Lucy Craft Laney was a famous educator in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She opened her own school in 1883, which became known as Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in Augusta, Georgia where she served as teacher and principle for 50 years.

Laney was born on April 13, 1854, one of ten children, to Louisa and David Laney. Laney was not enslaved as David Laney purchased his freedom twenty years before Laney’s birth and then purchased his wife’s freedom sometime after their marriage. Laney was taught to read by her mother at the early age of four. By 12 Laney could translate passages in Latin. She attended Lewis (later Ballard) High School in Macon, GA which was sponsored by the American Missionary Association.

Laney prepared to be a teacher at Atlanta University in 1889 (later Clark Atlanta University), graduating from the Normal Department (teacher’s training) in 1873.

Sewing_class_at_Haines_Normal_and_Industrial_Institute,_Augusta,_Georgia_LCCN2003652513
Sewing class at Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, Augusta, Georgia

Laney’s school started out small with just a handful of students. She began her school in 1883 in Augusta. Her school was chartered by the state three years later and named the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute. Originally, Laney intended to admit only girls, but several boys appeared and she could not turn them away. By the end of the second year, there were more than 200 Black students enrolled in Laney’s school.

Over the years, Laney made many improvements and additions to the school. In the 1890s, the school was one of the first to offer kindergarten classes for African-American children in the South. She also opened a training center so that black women could train as nurses. The school’s curriculum provided the students with traditional liberal arts courses as well as vocational programs, which was groundbreaking at the time, but that’s not all. Laney’s school also acted as a cultural center for the Black community, hosting lectures by nationally famous guests, and various social events.

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Her Skin

beautiful-skin

She has heard for too long now
that her pores bleed the color of slave ships
that chains have been seen in her smile
that her skin shines like a beacon of shame
sprinkled amidst Mississippi cotton fields
sometimes
her beauty sticks out
like a diamond in the ruff they notice her
and still
she is only pretty for a dark skin girl
Who does she think she is?
being darker than a brown paper bag?

The truth is that she is the color of the Goddesses
a dark chocolate kiss
neatly wrapped in silk
want to touch her face
just to see if it’s real
just to see if it’ll melt underneath my fingertips
Instead
I’ll keep my hands to myself
don’t want to be the stone
responsible for the wrinkles in her skin
this delicate rose petal of a woman
reborn in the spring
don’t want my touch
to taint her gorgeous
where not even the bite of Winter
dares to diminish
her light

Guest Feature – Exerpt from Ntozake Shange

for-colored-girls-cover
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf Copyright © 1975, 1976, 1977 by Ntozake Shange

i can’t hear anythin

but maddening screams

& the soft strains of death

& you promised me

you promised me…

somebody/anybody

sing a black girl’s song

bring her out to know herself

to know you

but sing her rhythms

carin/struggle/hard times

sing her song of life

she’s been dead so long

closed in silence so long

she doesn’t know the sound

of her own voice

her infinite beauty

she’s half-notes scattered

without rhythm/no tune

sing her sighs

sing the song of her possibilities

sing a righteous gospel

let her be born

let her be born

and handled warmly.