Geraldine Wilson in her college’s yearbook (Temple University), 1955
Geraldine Wilson (1931-1988) holds a special place in my heart. Her life reflected one of a phenomenal black woman who selflessly advocated for the rights of her people. Her resume and CV have spoken for themselves.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Gerry, as she was known to family and friends, attended the Philadelphia High School for Girls. She graduated in 1950.
Philadelphia High School for Girls (1950)
1345 N. Arden Street
“…beloved member of our class.”
The yearbook uploaded to Classmates.com (you can view whatever yearbooks they had for free, just make an account :D) belonged to a graduate named Myra. Geraldine wrote, “May you all the luck and success you can stand. Have fun and be happy. Sincerely, Gerry.” Either following her high school graduation or a year after, Gerry enrolled at a local university, you may have heard of it, Temple University where she received her bachelor of science in early childhood and elementary education. I do not want to describe her as an overachiever; however, she was extremely involved at her university and in her community. During the summers of her school years, she worked at Franklin Day Care Center on 719 Jackson Street in Philadelphia where she served as an assistant teacher to the three and four year old groups. According to Google, this daycare is still operating in the same location. During her four years at Temple, Gerry’s college activities included the following: Delta Sigma Theta, University Religion Council, University Christian Movement, Canterbury Club, Elementary Education Club, Class Representative to Education Council, Co-Chairman of Brotherhood Dinner, and a modern dance group. She was given the title ‘Super Senior’ her final year and I know for sure she lived up to that role. Gerry later returned to Temple to take graduate courses in education and sociology.
While enrolled in these courses she worked as a teacher within the Philadelphia Public School System from 1955 to 1959. By 1959, Gerry transitioned into a new position at the United Neighborhood Association’s House of Industry as the Director of Children’s Program and quickly rose to the position of House Director until June 1964. By this time the Civil Rights Movement was sweeping across the South and Geraldine left Philadelphia to take part in the 1964 Freedom Rides.
Shortly after she started teaching, the Civil Rights Movement got underway and in 1964, Gerry went south to work with SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) in the Mississippi Delta and Albany, Georgia. Never was she to forget the palpable fear of travelling the back roads of Mississippi at a time when Civil Rights workers were being beaten and killed, or the bravery and quiet heroism of the workers and citizens who supported the Movement at great personal risk.
Obituary of Geraldine Wilson, 1988
In 1965 (although her obituary lists 1966) Gerry left Mississippi to pursue a her master’s at New York University’s School of Education studying Group Dynamics and Human Relations. She completed her M.A. degree in 1968. During this time she worked at the Neighborhood Children’s Center as an assistant director and at the Citizen’s Care Day Care Center where she served as the center’s director. From October 1966 until June 1968 she served as the field adviser for the New York City Project Head Start. During this time, Gerry also returned to Mississippi to establish programs for young children. She became the co-planner of the Mississippi Institute for Early Childhood Education. In 1970, she began her doctorate at NY and was completing her dissertation at the time of her death. During this time she also received her certification in the summer of 1970 in West African art, history, and culture from the University of Ghana.
I am not lying when I say I only touched on a small portion of her many accomplishments and work. Don’t believe me, check out her resume below.
Until the next post,
Also sorry for the inactivity, I have been working on graduate school papers which require a ton of reading and a lot of traveling, but I am back:)