Ada Louise Lawrence

Daughter of Earl Lawrence and granddaughter of Emma Gertrude Lawrence, Ada Louise Lawrence was hired in 1946 as the first full-time African American teacher in Erie public schools. Having graduated from historically black Cheney State Teachers College and with previous teaching experience in a segregated district in Maryland, her Erie appointment at McKinley Elementary School represented a breakthrough for the city’s growing African American population. An Erie newspaper heralded Ada Lawrence as “a credit to her race,” and expressed the “hope that her teaching career [would] be a long and successful one.” Indeed it was, as Ada Lawrence taught 36 years in the district before her retirement in 1982. Ada Lawrence became custodian of her rich family legacy, and in the 1970s mentored young teachers like Johnny Johnson and Celestine Davis, instilling in them a passion for African American history that continues to this day.

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