Feb. 13, 1922: Detroit’s first black public school teacher dies

Fannie RichardsOn this day in 1922 Fannie Richards, the city’s first black public school teacher, joins the ancestors.

She was 81.

Richards was born on October 1, 1840 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. As a child, she moved to Toronto, Canada with her parents where she was educated.

In 1863, Richards opened a private school for black children. In 1869, she was appointed instructor of Colored School No. 2. In 1870, under the leadership of John Bagley, Richards and several of her relatives protested against the city’s segregated school system.

In 1869, the Michigan Supreme Court ordered the Detroit Board of Education to abolish separate schools for black and white students. Richards was transferred to the newly-integrated Everett Elementary School, where she taught for 44 years. It was there that she established the first kindergarten in Michigan. In 1915, after more than 50 years of service, Richards retired from teaching.
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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.