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Image courtesy of the Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, New Brunswick, NJ

Image courtesy of the Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, New Brunswick, NJ

Nellie Morrow Parker (1902-1998) surmounted controversy to become the first African American public school teacher in Hackensack, Bergen County. She was hired as a young woman to teach fifth and sixth grade in the Hackensack public schools. The initial circumstances surrounding her appointment as a teacher were quite controversial. The district superintendant William Stark acted against popular opinion at the time by hiring Parker. Consequently, Stark incurred a huge blow to his professional career; the day after he hired Parker, superintendant Stark resigned from his position.

During her early years of teaching, Parker and her family were subject to criticism by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Knights of Columbus, and to harassment by the Ku Klux Klan. The community held town meetings, the press voiced disapproval and the Morrow family was rebuked by friends and strangers alike. Despite the tumultuous start to her teaching career, Parker survived her trial period and remained in the Hackensack school system for 42 years. Parker was also a founding member of Black Women’s Business and Professional Organization and helped establish the Mary McLeod Bethune Scholarship Fund.

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