Designing a Campus for African-American Females: The National Training School for Women and Girls 1907 – 1964 and the Making of a D.C. Neighborhood

By R.R.S. Stewart.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Starting in 2006, a group of students and faculty in the fields of Architectural History, Landscape Architecture, and Urban and Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia began a project to create a comprehensive overview of how the neighborhoods of Northeast D.C. developed, how the land around Watts Branch became a park and to develop a portrait of the community and the park’s history. I focused on the campus of the National Training School for Women and Girls in Lincoln Heights, a neighborhood along Watts Branch. This campus was the physical manifestation of a new ideology in technical and higher education for African American women.
Nannie Helen Burroughs founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in 1909. Burroughs, who also founded the Women’s Convention Auxiliary (WCA) to the National Baptist Convention and was a member of the National Association of Colored women (NACW), made it clear that she wanted her school to be funded primarily by African Americans and that it would be open to African American students of all denominations.
The National Training School was the first African American Women’s school of national scope to open outside of the Deep South and Burroughs was often compared to Booker T. Washington. Locating the school in an established African American neighborhood, but within in an area that was - like the city as a whole - racially mixed, probably held some attraction to Burroughs, who required her students to take courses in Black History, in addition to courses required for students’ majors, which could be normal (teaching), missionary, or domestic science.
This paper examines how the campus evolved throughout the school’s lifetime in relation to women’s education in general, education for African Americans specifically, and changes in Watt’s Branch.

Keywords: Washington, D.C., Women’s Education, African American Education, Nannie Helen Burroughs

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 12, pp.139-182. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 18.040MB).

Ms. R.R.S. Stewart

Graduate Researcher, Departments of Architectural History and Urban and Environmental Planning, School of Architecture, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

R.R. S. Stewart was born and raised in Dubuque, Iowa. The beauty of that area, the ancient Native American Indian Effigy mounds, and Dubuque’s being the oldest European-American settlement in Iowa started her interest in Historic Preservation. Growing up on the Iowa/Wisconsin border, seeing Taliesin hovering over a sea of corn also contributed to Ms. Stewart’s interest in Architecture. Her travels throughout the U.S. and Europe further enhanced her architectural interest. R.R.S. has visited all 50 U.S. state capitals and 17 national capitals. She received a Bachelor of Individualized Studies in Architectural Conservation, Mass Communication, and Women’s Politics from the University of Minnesota. Ms. Stewart studied at the University of Edinburgh for three semesters, concluding with a post-occupancy evaluation of the Scottish Parliament complex, which incorporated 17th century structures into a post-modern assembly by Enric Miralles, Bendetta Tagliabue (EMBT, Spain) and RMJM (Scotland) Ltd. R.R.S. pursued a Master’s Degree in Architectural History, a Certificate in Historic Preservation and a second Master’s in Urban and Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia. Her degrees focus on American Architecture and Art prior to 1950, Scottish Landscape Architecture from 1600 – 1750 and Preservation Planning.


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