September 22, 2023

Hattie Mae White

By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, Ed.D.

In the 20th century, Hattie Mae White was the first African American elected to public office. She was once a schoolteacher and in 1958, she held a position on the Houston school board during segregation. There was a parent who was against a black person being a board member, but she held her ground. With numerous support from black voters, and some support from whites, she reflected on how this was a time where black and white Houstonians collaborated on a political campaign.

Although she received support from many, there were also many people who were not happy with her efforts. Because of this, a week after the election, her windshield was shot out, and someone set a cross on fire in her family’s front yard. Her family was traumatized by these events.

White was not pleased with how the schools were “separate but not equal,” as well as how expensive they were to maintain, so she spearheaded the effort to desegregate Houston’s schools. She endured animosity from many members on the board who did not want to give in to integration. She ran for a third term but was defeated by conservatives. Although she did not win another term, she took her talents to serve many interracial organizations and never stopped fighting for equality in Houston.

She started teaching again, and retired at age 70, and later died in 1993. The Houston Independent School district has never forgotten her legacy as they named the Hattie Mae White Administration Building in her honor.

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