We are delighted to bring you this Special Black History Edition of the Florida PTA newsletter. We hope you will join us this month in the recognizing and celebrating the heritage, accomplishments, and contributions of Black Americans to PTA and to our communities. 

Linda Kearschner
President, Florida PTA

Carolyn Nelson-Goedert
Vice-President for Leadership Development
From the Florida PTA Archives...
The Florida State Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers combined with the Florida Parent Teacher Association in February 1968 and donated their treasury to the building fund.
Notable Biographies
Selena Sloan Butler

Selena Sloan Butler organized the first National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers (NCCPT) and co-founded the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, which is now known as the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). She centered her life's work on improving the educational environments and upholding the rights of all children, regardless of their race or situation.

Selena was active in her community not only as a teacher of English and elocution but also as an organizer. She co-founded the Spelman College Alumnae Association, organized the Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the Atlanta YWCA, and was the first president of the Georgia Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. In 1929 she was appointed by President Herbert Hoover to the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection and during World War II, she organized the Red Cross’ first black women’s chapter of “Gray Ladies.”

The first chapter of the National Colored Congress of Parents and Teachers was founded by Selena at Yonge Street Elementary School in Atlanta in 1911, and by 1919 many other chapters had been formed across the state. Its success led her to create the statewide Georgia Colored Parent-Teacher Association in 1920 and the NCCPT in 1926. It closely followed the model set up by Alice Birney and Phoebe Hearst, who founded the National Congress of Mothers. The NCCPT and the Congress of Mothers worked closely with each other to improve the conditions in schools for all children as well as for teachers.
When the NCCPT merged with the National PTA in 1970, Butler was posthumously recognized as one of the organization’s founders. Today, Butler is honored as a co-founder of the National Parent Teacher Association.

Eugenia B. Thomas

Ms. Thomas was the first black president of the Florida Parent Teacher Association serving from 1988-1990. She was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on Nov. 24, 1924 and she moved to Miami with her family in 1929. She attended Booker T. Washington High School where she graduated class valedictorian in 1940. She attended Florida Memorial University where she also graduated with honors (Magna Cum Laude) in 1945.

Over the years, Eugenia Thomas racked up thousands of volunteer hours, lending her help to the PTA, the Children's Home Society, United Way and the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida, among other local organizations.

“It was the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) that really sparked Eugenia’s enthusiasm for becoming a child advocate,” (Mayra) Barreira wrote. “It was the notion that she could do good for so many children that made the work heartfelt and meaningful.”

Mrs. Eugenia B. Thomas was honored through the naming of the Eugenia B. Thomas K-8 Center in the City of Doral, Florida.

After a life of service, during which she was recognized with many awards, Mrs. Thomas passed on August 17, 2015.

Teproff, Carli. “State’s first black PTA president, child advocate, dies at 90.” Miami Herald 20 Aug. 20 2015: Web. 7 Feb. 2019.
Lenelle Cruse

PTA bake sales were not a part of Lenelle Cruse's childhood memories. She was reared by her grandmother in Northwest Jacksonville during the late 1950s. But even then, there were women like her grandmother who had to work all the time. So any baking Cruse's grandmother did was to feed her family, not to raise funds for playground equipment.

"She had to work, so she didn't have time [for PTA]," recalled Lenelle in an interview from 2004. "She worked at a chemical plant, and she was outside all day. . . She supervised the men. The job she had was a really hard job."

But when Cruse grew up and had children of her own, duty compelled her to do what exhaustion wouldn't allow her grandmother to do. The speech pathologist joined the PTA at Henry F. Kite Elementary nearly three decades years ago. "I didn't know the teachers in that school [Kite], so I decided that the best way for me to know what was going on in the school was to be involved in the school," said Cruse. "My husband even joined the PTA. It's a family affair."

But her passion for the PTA continued even after all three of her children became adults, so much so that she went on to serve in state leadership positions as Safety Chair, Membership Chair, VP of Leadership, and President-Elect before being installed as Florida PTA President in 2006. As President, Lenelle championed education for all children using the theme “Building Bridges for Children” and remains an inspiration to Florida PTA.

NPTA Every Child In Focus
Marian Wright Edelman founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund
National PTA, Race, and Civic Engagement
An interesting read is attached here. Worthy of discussion for any PTA.

Florida PTA Study/Work Group Invitation

If you have an interest in participating in a study/work group to explore diversity in Florida PTA’s past, present and future, please email your preferred contact details (email and phone) to Carolyn Nelson-Goedert at vp.leadership@floridapta.org.