Feature Image for Black History Month Spotlight: Dorothy Waring Howard post

This Black History Month CentroNía would like to spotlight and celebrate black early childhood educators.

Early childhood educators are at the forefront in teaching our little future leaders and Dorothy Waring Howard was a pioneer.

After studying early childhood education at Columbia University and the University of Chicago, Dorothy became a teacher in Washington DC. She soon noticed that DC’s only nursery school at the time most likely would not accept her young daughter nor other black children. And so, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

In an article written by The Washington Post, they stated that she believed that a childcare program should be an educational experience and should not be viewed as just “babysitting”.

In 1929, Dorothy founded the Garden of Children, the first nursery school in DC for black children. It was one of the earliest in the United States and located in her own home. Along with the Garden of Children, she pioneered what she called an “early start” approach to her early childhood education program. The idea sets a focus on emotional warmth, teacher qualifications and compensation, and of course, education. Soon after the school had full-time teachers and an enrollment of over 40 students.

DC street where Dorothy Waring Howard's Garden of Children nursery school was located.

For 32 years the Garden of Children continued to be an essential fixture in DC’s black community until 1961 when Dorothy retired. Dorothy passed away in 1988 and left a remarkable legacy for many to look up to and admire for years to come.

In 2016 the National Museum of American History was able to talk to an old student of Dorothy’s who expressed to them that the Garden of Children was able to impact black children in a meaningful, long lasting way. She stated, “We were prepared academically, and you felt like you could do anything anybody put in front of you.”

A student's birthday party at Garden of Children, March 1949. Courtesy of the Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

Dorothy Waring Howard continues to be an extraordinarily significant figure in early childhood education. Her dedication to provide high quality education to black children is inspiring to the CentroNía community and beyond!