This Black History Month, join us as we celebrate the accomplishments of Black leaders in early education. These leaders and their groundbreaking work at local, state, and national levels have been integral to creating systems for quality early learning that all children deserve and need. Their contributions serve not just as inspiration, but also as blueprints for how equitable and just access to quality early education supports the growth and development of young children and ultimately strengthens communities and society as a result.

We hope this page serves as a launch point for your own conversations about the important contributions of Black leaders in early childhood education, and we encourage you to learn more about each leader in the links provided.

Anna Evans Murray

Anna Evans Murray was an American educator and advocate who played a critical role in building the movement for public kindergartens in Washington, D.C., and in turn, laid the groundwork for federal funding for early care and education.

  • As an active member of the Colored Women’s League (CWL), and hailing from activist roots, Murray is responsible for establishing the first private kindergartens for Black families in Washington D.C. Access to education, regardless of income, seemed to be a core priority for Murray: her early kindergartens, in collaboration with the CWL, offered sessions for poor, working class families, as well as families who had access to more resources.
  • Murray’s vision for kindergartens would not be possible without recruiting and training Black kindergarten teachers. Murray established a kindergarten training school that, in 1899, graduated 28 young Black women to become kindergarten teachers.
  • Her model became the foundation for her work advocating for dedicated city, state, and federal funding for early childhood education.
  • Murray viewed kindergarten as a powerful educational project, and to this date, her vision, drive, and optimism are prominent in the early education sector.

To learn more about Murray’s contributions, please see her profile on the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment’s (CSCCE) website: Anna Evans Murray: Visionary Leadership in Public Kindergartens and Teacher Training.

Haydee B. Campbell

Haydee B. Campbell was an American educator and advocate for kindergarten for African-American children, particularly in leading the establishment of public kindergartens in St. Louis.

  • After several years as a kindergarten teacher, Campbell went before the school board of St. Louis to apply for a “principal or instructress” position for the kindergarten department, where she achieved the highest score ever recorded in St. Louis on the examination administered to applicants. This great achievement launched her career, from teacher to trainer to national leader.
  • In 1889, she became the Superintendent of Black Kindergartens, where she was responsible for training Black kindergarten teachers, assistants, and volunteers. Her training made a huge impact on the kindergarten movement, as many of the Black women she trained went on to lead Black kindergartens throughout the country.
  • Campbell’s lifelong commitment to social justice helped to expand early childhood education opportunities for Black children and educational training and employment opportunities for Black women. Her legacy has and will continue to inspire ECE professionals and advocates for years to come.

To learn more about Haydee B. Campbell, please see her profile on the CSCCE website: Haydee B. Campbell: Expanding Education for Black Children and Opportunities for Black Women.

Dr. Evelyn Moore

Throughout her career, Dr. Evelyn Moore has been an advocate for young children and worked to elevate the important role of quality, enriching educational environments in children’s development—particularly for Black children, who were (and in many cases still are) prevented from accessing quality early learning opportunities. 

  • Dr. Evelyn Moore began her career in the 1960s as an educator, working with children with disabilities and special needs. During that time, it was recognized that there was a disproportionate amount of Black children living in poverty, which put them on a trajectory to struggle in school. To counter this, the groundbreaking Perry Preschool Project was launched, which provided high quality preschool education for three- and four-year-old African American children living in low-income and poverty-stricken environments. She made significant contributions to our understanding of the affect on high quality early childhood education thanks to her role as an educator in the Perry Preschool Project. 
  • Dr. Moore became involved in creating greater preschool opportunities for Black children in the South during a time when many southern states would not accept federal dollars dedicated to funding preschool for Black children. From that work, she founded the National Black Child Development Institute in response to the growing need for an organization dedicated to advocating for Black children when it came to preschool. 
  • Through her work, Dr. Moore has become an advocate for universal childcare, literacy and cognitive development in the early years, and the allocation of federal funds for the sector. She approaches teaching children from a strengths-based perspective, as opposed to framing children by their deficits.

To learn more about Dr. Moore, watch her interview with the National Institute for Early Education Research as part of series titled: Legacy 2030.

Dr. Edmund W. Gordon

Dr. Edmund W. Gordon is a respected scholar, psychologist, author, and educator, with one of his biggest achievements being the founding director of research and evaluation for Project Head Start in 1965.

  • In founding Project Head Start, Dr. Gordon’s intention was to break the cycle of poverty that existed predominantly in Black communities. His participation in the design and implementation of the program helped to conceive, materialize and deliver a much needed early education program to the nation.
  • Starting as an 8-week summer program to address the needs of preschool children from low socioeconomic families, the Head Start program has been running and servicing families throughout the United States for 57 years.
  • Project Head Start has turned out to be one of the most successful and effective federal government experiments in our nation’s history, and Dr. Gordon’s work to establish Head Start as a child development, early education, and community improvement initiative continues to have a positive impact on million of young children, their families, and their communities.

To learn more about Dr. Edmund W. Gordon, click here to read an article written in the Washington Post titled “At 100 years old, Edmund Gordon thinks the key to schooling starts at home.”

We’re grateful to the the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, National Institute for Early Education Research, and the Washington Post for these resources.