Collection Title: Jackson Purchase Oral History Project – Schools and Education
Series Number: OH269
Interviewee: Rutter, Henrietta
Interviewer: Bates, Mary Sled
Date interviewed: July 1, 1979
Processed by: O'Daniel, Hannah
Date processed: April 15, 2014
Description: 1 sound disc (33 minutes)
Abstract: Henrietta Rutter began the interview with biographical information on her parents. She explained the racial tensions in the Deep South which led her father to move from Georgia. Moving North afforded her more educational opportunities, including non-restricted access to public libraries and integrated primary, secondary and higher education. She highlighted her shock at the discrepancies between the economic and physical conditions of segregated Howard University and the University of Pittsburgh. She discussed the influence that her professors at the University of Pittsburgh had on her career as an educator. She recounted her experiences teaching in the Deep South for three years and then returning to the University of Pittsburgh for a graduate degree. She discussed a racial charged incident while shopping in Louisville, Kentucky that made her feel uncomfortable to remain in that area. While acknowledging that some African Americans were able to be very financially successful and respected in the South, Rutter noted that the majority of African Americans were not. She continued the interview by chronicling her teaching positions in Paducah, including four years at the segregated normal school of West Kentucky Industrial College, twenty years at the Rowlandtown School, two years at the consolidated Northside School and brief term as the principal and sixth grade teacher of Southside School. She named the teachers that she worked with at these institutions. She also provided her opinion on the importance of having subject specific teachers. She asserted that segregation in Paducah was doomed from the beginning since the division of Paducah's limited funding between two separate school systems hurt all students. She concluded the interview by telling of her role on the Council of Organizations in Paducah and the council's efforts to improve employment and protect human rights in the city.
Biographical / Historical note: Henrietta Rutter an African American educator and school administrator born on January 17, 1907 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She attended primary school in Pittsburgh. She completed her undergraduate education at Howard University, an all-black institution in Washington, D.C., and the University of Pittsburgh. She taught at a women's college in Greensboro, North Carolina for three summers. She obtained her Master degree from the University of Pittsburgh. From 1934 to 1938, she served as the head critic teacher at West Kentucky Industrial College, a segregated normal school in Paducah, Kentucky. From 1938 to 1958, she taught in the Rowlandtown School in Paducah. When the school was consolidated with Northside School in 1958, she transferred to Northside and taught there for two years. In 1960, she became principal and sixth grade teacher of the new Southside School in Paducah. After she retired from teaching, she served on the Paducah Board of Education. At the time of the interview, she was involved with the Council of Organizations in Paducah. She died on November 22, 1995 at the age of 85 years old.
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