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Remembering Clara Olivia Byrd Baker, Black American Educator and Civic Leader

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Clara Olivia Byrd Baker was a teacher who dedicated her life to inspiring her students to continue their education and pursue professional careers.

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Byrd was born in Williamsburg, Virginia, on June 22, 1886. Charles and Malvina Carey Byrd were her parents. She married William Baker, Sexton of Bruton Parish Church, in 1905. They had four children together.

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In 1902, Byrd’s first teaching assignment was at a one-room school in James City County. She advocated for inter-racial cooperation and women’s involvement in public affairs. In 1920, Baker was one of the first women in Williamsburg to register to vote. Her varied affiliations included church, teaching, children’s, and women’s organizations.

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She continued her education while teaching at Hampton Institute and Virginia State College for Negroes (later Virginia State University), where she earned a B.S. in education.

 

Baker relocated to Virginia Beach in 1967, where she continued her extensive civic volunteering until her death. In September 1989, the Williamsburg-James City County School System opened Clara Byrd Baker Elementary School.

 

Baker has received numerous awards from local and regional organizations for her contributions to education and civic engagement. The Virginia State Library and Archives named her an African American Trailblazer in 2007, recognizing distinguished African Americans from the state of Virginia. In 2011, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation honored her life in To Be Seen as an American, as one of three African-American women who “didn’t accept society’s limits on what they could accomplish.”

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Written by How Africa News

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