Virginia Changemakers
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Lucy Francis Simms (Circa 1857 - 1934)

Lucy Francis Simms.jpg






Lucy Francis Simms (died July 10, 1934) was born into slavery about 1857 and grew up near Harrisonburg on a plantation owned by the Gray family. In 1877 she graduated from Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University). She returned to Rockingham County and taught at a small country school in the African American community of Zenda. A year later Simms began teaching at the segregated school in Harrisonburg. For the 1883-1884 academic year, she served as acting principal for the Effinger School, where she taught primary grades until her death.

Dedicated to her profession, Simms attended teacher training schools during the summer, occasionally as an instructor. She helped organize the county's association for teachers and served a term as auditor of the Negro Teacher's Association and School Improvement League of Virginia, which worked to increase support for universal education and better public schools for African Americans. Over the course of her fifty-six-year career, Simms taught an estimated 1,800 students and had a profound influence on her community.

The City of Harrisonburg recognized her accomplishments when it opened the Lucy F. Simms School in 1939. The public school systems of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County honor their outstanding teachers with the annual Lucy F. Simms Educator of the Year awards. The Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center continues to operate in the 1939 school building in Harrisonburg.

Nominated by Deniece Frye (2009-2010), Skyline Middle School, Harrisonburg.

2011 African American Trailblazers honoree, Library of Virginia.

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Image Courtesy of the Library of Virginia.