Lucy Craft Laney was a pioneering educator in Georgia who opened the first school for Black children in Augusta. She also opened the first nursing school for Black women in the town as well, leading to a long career in education. Laney was born April 13, 1854 to former slave parents in Macon, Ga.
Although it was illegal for Blacks to read at the time, Laney was taught to do so by her mother and her parents’ former owner’s sister. After developing a thirst for learning, Laney entered Atlanta College at 15, graduating in 1873. For the next decade, she worked as a teacher before opening her historic school. Laney’s school, later known as the Haines Normal and Industrial School, opened in 1883.
In its first year, only six students attended classes. In the following year, however, the school enrolled well over 200 students. The school was also among the first in the Deep South to offer kindergarten classes to Black children. Over the years, Laney added the nursing program and vocational programs to the school’s curriculum.
At the time, Laney’s approach to education was seen as groundbreaking. For over 50 years, Laney worked tirelessly to educate Black youth and women in Augusta. She was reportedly still performing her duties up until her death on October 23, 1933. She was 79 years old.
Then governor Jimmy Carter had a portrait of Laney erected in the Georgia State Capitol.
(Photo: Augusta, GA vistor’s website)