Barker, Mary Cornelia, 1879-1963


"Mary Cornelia Barker, educator and labor activist (1879-1963), was born in Atlanta...An early leader in the movement to organize teachers in Atlanta to improve their position and working conditions, Mary Barker supported the affiliation of the Atlanta Public School Teachers Association (as Local 89) with the American Federation of Teachers in 1919. She served as president of Local 89 from 1921 to 1923 and of the American Federation of Teachers from 1925 to 1931. She was instrumental in four gains made by Atlanta teachers in the 1920's: provision for tenure (1922), consistent, firmly integrated salary schedules for elementary and high school teachers (1926), initial step toward retirement benefits (1927), and formation of the Atlanta Public School Teachers Association Credit Union (1929). In 1927 Mary Barker helped to found the Southern Summer School for Women Workers in Industry (later, The Southern Summer School for Workers, Inc.), which, at its summer sessions in various places in Virginia and the Carolinas, trained leaders for the labor movement. Miss Barker served as chairman of the central committee for some 15 years, and for the last few years before the school disbanded in 1951, she served on its advisory committee... Mary Barker was one of the early leaders of the biracial movement in Atlanta. She belonged to the Atlanta Urban League, Fulton-DeKalb Committee on Interracial Cooperation, and the Georgia Committee of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation. She served on the board of Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the Atlanta Y.W.C.A. Miss Barker encouraged Atlanta's black teachers to form a union and to work through it for better working conditions and for salaries equal to those paid white teachers."--Inventory of the Mary Cornelia Barker papers, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.

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