University of Chicago Honors a Pioneering African American Alumna

The University of Chicago recently unveiled a bust of Georgiana Rose Simpson that sits on a pedestal in the Reynolds Club, the student center on campus. The Reynolds Club was once restricted to White men.

Georgiana Rose Simpson was a native of Washington, D.C. She trained to become an elementary school teacher at Miner Normal School, which years later was incorporated into what is now the University of the District of Columbia. At the age of 42, Simpson enrolled at the University of Chicago. Initially allowed to live in university housing, her presence there angered White students and she was asked to move off-campus.

Simpson graduated in 1911 and returned to Washington to teach at Dunbar High Schools. She returned to the University of Chicago to earn a master’s degree and at the age of 55, a Ph.D. in German. Dr. Simpson is widely considered as the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. Unable to find a teaching job at the university level despite her credentials, Dr. Simpson returned to Washington to once again teach at Dunbar High School.

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  1. I attended the unveiling of this monument of Dr. Georgiana Rose Simpson here in Chicago. Upon her graduation, Dr.SImpson returned to DC and initially worked at Dunbar High School. Then, Howard University hired her to teach in their Language department until she retired in 1939. Dr. Simpson was an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and frequently interacted with the scholars of her time: W. E. B. DuBois, Frederick Douglas, and Carter G. Woodson to improve the condition of her people.

  2. I will definitely research this amazing educator. Blacks like her paved the way for us modern day educators to earn our doctorates. I can’t imagine the indignities she suffered with no avenue of recourse.

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