Lucy Laney

Lucy Laney
Lucy Laney

Lucy Craft Laney

1853–1933

Born into slavery in 1854, Lucy Craft Laney was educated by her parents as slaves were not allowed to attend school. Before she became a teenager she could not only read and write English, but also Latin. However, when she attended Atlanta University in 1873, she was not allowed to take the classics courses because they were only offered to men. Her indignation at this denial may have been the inspiration for Laney when she later started her own school.

After graduating from Atlanta University, Laney first taught in Macon, Georgia, before moving to Atlanta. There she started a school in the basement of her local Presbyterian Church. Originally planned as a school for Black girls, Laney couldn’t turn away the few boys that showed up so it became co-educational. It was the first school for Black children in Augusta, Georgia, and the surrounding area. In 1883 there were only six students but two years later the number had increased to over 200. Laney traveled to Minnesota hoping to get funding to help her expand the school to include a junior college. Her efforts to raise funds were initially unsuccessful, but after returning to Augusta, a Mrs. Haines donated $10,000, allowing Lucy to finally expand the school, which was renamed Haines Normal and Industrial Institute. By 1928, the school encompassed buildings on a whole block and had over 800 students. Laney was the principal there for 50 years.

Two schools have been named for Lucy Craft Laney: one in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the other is the original Haines Normal, in Augusta, Georgia.

“God has nothing to make men and women out of but boys and girls.”  — Lucy Laney

Learn about the documentary film made about her life. Love Them First.