It’s a tough thing to be brilliant when the world wants to silence you. Yet Dr. Mildred Jefferson persisted, seeking what she believed was her right, an education, and offering others the blessings she had received. Far too little has been written about her, but I suspect that will change over time as people continue to seek new heroines and different narratives. Those future researchers may start at with a collection of her papers at Harvard.
We don’t usually notice the irony that we celebrate Presidents Day during Black History Month while avoiding uncomfortable conversations about how many of our early presidents owed their wealth to slave labor. We also can’t assume that every African American is a descendant of slaves. But it’s hard not to notice that Dr. Jefferson shares her name with one of our most complicated presidents.
I’m intrigued by her life as both a minister and a doctor and look forward to learning more. For now, I’ll start with these oral histories.