Prince William County educator Fannie Fitzgerald was recognized posthumously as one of the ‘Strong Men & Women in Virginia History’ during a ceremony Feb. 7 in Richmond.
Other honorees included a mayor, poet, minister and judge.
This is the seventh-annual recognition by Dominion Energy and the Library of Virginia of African American men and women whose accomplishments and leadership made significant contributions to the state, according to a news release.
Fitzgerald was born July 27, 1930, and grew up in Amelia County, the youngest of 11 children. Her parents stressed the importance of both religion and education, according to a news release. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Virginia Union University in 1953 and began teaching in a two-room schoolhouse.
After a few years, she applied to graduate programs in Virginia, but was denied entry because she was black. Instead, she studied at Columbia University in New York, receiving her master’s degree in special education in 1960. During this time, she also taught at two segregated schools in Prince William County.
Although the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education outlawed segregated schools in 1954, many Virginians refused to integrate and organized “Massive Resistance” that led to public school closings in some jurisdictions.
Fitzgerald and three other African-American teachers, known as the “Courageous Four,” were selected in 1965 to pioneer desegregation in Prince William. They were transferred from all-black schools to teach at white schools and helped accomplish desegregation by September 1966. When asked about this time, Fitzgerald said, “Children are children. It doesn’t matter what color they are.”
In addition to serving as a fourth-grade teacher and a learning disabilities specialist, she was also a supervisor for both integration and special needs programs.
In 2008 a Dale City elementary school was named in her honor.
She died on April 7, 2016.