Little Known Black History Fact: Gertrude Wade

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  • Gertrude Wade was the first black female principal of an inner city school in Pittsburgh. She died last week at age 90. For 15 years, Wade taught at A. Leo Weil Elementary School where she became Asst. Principal in 1961. It wasn't her first attempt at working in education. When she received her teaching degree, she interviewed with the Board of Education, who told her to go South where they hired Negro teachers. She was finally hired at A. Leo Weil where her take home pay was $99 per month.

    Only a year after she was hired at A. Leo Weil, Wade was promoted to Principal at Vann Elementary School in the Hill. Wade received racist letters full of threats, but kept her position for the next five years. Then she was off to Larimer Elementary where her expertise and organization was needed. In 1969 she was asked to lead the East Hills Elementary magnet school. She taught until retirement in 1981 to take care of an ailing father.

    Described as stubborn by a relative, Wade lived in the Homewood area, a troubled city neighborhood where she resided for 60 years. She had been urged to move by family but refused to leave the area she knew too well.

    Wade initially wanted to attend medical school, but because her family could not afford it, she chose to attend the University of Pittsburgh and received a degree in education in 1944. Her parents paid for her education by taking a loan out on the furniture each year to pay the tuition of $150 per month. She got her Masters Degree two years later by attending night school.

    As an activist, Wade and her cousin Rachel Poole were members of the Congress of Racial Equality. She did what she could to help students find scholarships and a way to an education.

    In her final years, Wade worked with community and church groups to help restore her neighborhood that had deteriorated. The area was once known to be a beacon of black history in the Pittsburgh area.

    The late principal is survived by her son, Walton Wade of Atlanta, Georgia and his wife Brenda.
     

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