Rachel Bassette Noel

Rachel Noel was the first African-American woman elected to public office in Colorado and the first African-American elected to the seven-member school board of the Denver Public Schools. Motivated by her own experience with discrimination, she seized the opportunity to work toward desegregating Denver’s schools. She received a bachelor’s degree in education from Hampton University in 1938, finishing first in her class. She followed that degree by completed a master’s in sociology at Fisk University. As part of her work at a settlement house in Washington, D.C., she became a girl scout troop leader. During WWII, she married Edmond Noel, a physician.

Noel shares the same birthday as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. whom she met with in Denver. Their talk encouraged and inspired her to work for equal opportunity for all children. After his assassination in 1968, she became further inspired to fight for equality.  She introduced what became known as the Noel Resolution, which set a goal for total integration by December 1968. Public opposition, including hate mail and angry phone calls, did not discourage her. Although the new school board overturned the resolution in 1969, the suit to integrate Denver schools was eventually upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Noel chaired the Department of Afro-American Studies at Metropolitan State College and was elected statewide to serve on the University of Colorado Board of Regents. She has an honorary doctorate from the University of Denver and has received numerous awards and honors for her civil rights contributions. Denver’s Rachel Noel Middle School was dedicated in her honor.

Books containing reference to Rachel Bassette Noel: Women of Consequence by Jeanne Varnell

 



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