Nannie Helen Burroughs, nationally prominent Black educator, Church leader, and suffrage supporter, founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, D. C. (1909) as a national model school for the teaching of African American women. Believing that education, job training, and voting rights were the tools for Black women’s empowerment, Burroughs wrote an article in the Crisis (1915), official magazine of the NAACP, demanding the ballot as a protection for African American women and the route to racial advancement.
Burroughs graduated from high school with honors in Washington, D. C. in 1896. She worked in Louisville for the Foreign Mission Board of the NationalBaptist Convention. Burroughs formed women’s industrial clubs throughout the South teaching night classes in typing, stenography, bookkeeping, millinery, and home economics to Black women. Through her powerful oratory she became secretary of the National Baptist Woman’s Convention and, building on her teaching experience and grassroots network among Baptist women, she founded the National Training School for Women and Girls. Under the motto, “We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible,” her school blended industrial training and the liberal arts with a Christian education. She maintained her own publishing house, trained women missionaries, and educated African American women to be self-sufficient wage earners. She was a power player among both Black and white women. She died in Washington in 1961; her school continues today.