Mary Jane Patterson

Mary Jane Patterson became the first African American woman in the United States to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree when she completed the collegiate course in Greek, Latin, and mathematics at Oberlin College in 1862. Following her graduation, Patterson became a trailblazer in education, teaching at Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth, the first high school for African Americans in the country, founded in 1837. In 1869, Patterson moved to Washington D.C. where she began serving as director of the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth (today known as Dunbar High School) and became the first recorded black principal of a high school in the city. Throughout her academic and professional journey, Mary Jane Patterson encountered respectability politics which served to advance and also hinder her career in the face of the dual burdens of racial and gender-based discrimination. 


Nathan Englehart