Elizabeth Evelyn Wright
first African American woman to establish the foundation for an HBCU in 1897
Elizabeth Evelyn Wright (1872-1906)
Elizabeth Evelyn Wright (1872-1906) was an African-American educator, social reformer, and founder of Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina. She was born on March 3, 1872, in Talbotton, Georgia, during a time of racial segregation and limited educational opportunities for African Americans.
Wright was raised in poverty but was determined to receive an education. At the age of 16, she left home and traveled to Tuskegee, Alabama, where she enrolled at the Tuskegee Institute. She worked as a domestic servant to support herself while pursuing her studies.
Inspired by the educational philosophy of Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee Institute, Wright believed in the transformative power of education for African Americans. After completing her studies at Tuskegee, she returned to South Carolina and started teaching at the Macedonia School in Denmark.
Realizing the need for higher education opportunities for African Americans in the region, Wright embarked on a mission to establish a college. She started by raising funds and gathering support from local communities, churches, and philanthropists. In 1897, she founded Denmark Industrial School, which later became known as Voorhees Industrial School and eventually Voorhees College.
Voorhees College provided vocational training and academic education to African-American students, focusing on agriculture, carpentry, home economics, and other practical skills. Wright believed that education should not only prepare students for employment but also instill character, discipline, and moral values.
Elizabeth Evelyn Wright’s dedication to education and her tireless efforts to establish Voorhees College played a significant role in expanding educational opportunities for African Americans in South Carolina. She passed away on December 14, 1906, but her legacy lives on through Voorhees College, which continues to educate students to this day.