Bessie Burke, a Los Angeles educational icon

Bessie Burke
Thu, 1891-03-19

*The birth of Bessie Bruington Burke, in 1891, is celebrated on this date. She was an African American educator and administrator, from Los Angeles, California.

Her parents left their farms and teaching professions in Kansas and came to Los Angeles via covered wagon in 1887. They settled in what is now North Hollywood. Burke attended Berendo Elementary School, Polytechnic High School, and the Los Angeles State Normal School (now part of UCLA) graduating seventh in a class of 800. She received her teaching credentials in 1911 and soon became the first Black teacher in the Los Angeles Public School system.

She began at Holmes Elementary School and became the principal (and the first Black in L.A.) in 1918. In 1938, Burke held the same position at Nevin Avenue School. She was a distinguished humanitarian and respected educator and academic administrator. Burke served with a number of civic organizations including the YWCA, Native California Club, Wilfandel, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and the NAACP.

She was positioned in influential, powerful, and redeeming responsibilities for over forty years in California. Bessie Burke died in 1968.

Holmes Avenue Elementary School
Los Angeles Unified School District
5108 Holmes Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90058

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Person / name: 

Burke, Bessie