Sarah Dickey was a young women in her twenties when she was sent on a mission by the United Brethren Church to Vicksburg, Mississippi. Between 1863 and 1865, she helped operate a school in Vicksburg for newly emancipated slaves. It was during this time that Dickey realized her life’s calling – to teach African American children during one of the most turbulent times in American history. After the war, she enrolled at Mount Holyoke, a female college in Massachusetts known for training teachers. She received her teaching diploma in 1869 and returned to Mississippi where she taught at Freedmen’s Bureau schools in Raymond and Clinton. In 1875, she opened Mount Hermon Seminary for Colored Females, a seminary for African American females in Clinton modeled after beloved Mount Holyoke. At Mount Hermon, Dickey oversaw the training of hundreds of African American women as teachers. Mount Hermon closed its doors in 1924 following Dickey’s death in 1904. Her life’s work, however, lived on through the work of students who went on to teach African American children in segregated schools throughout Mississippi.
Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 3 and 4
RH.1-2; WHST.2, 4-6
Grades 7 through 12
- Mississippi History Now article, “ Sarah Dickey: Indomitable Mississippi Educator”
- Sarah Dickey Life Chart
- Unlined paper or poster board
- Computer (optional for essay and timeline)
The students will:
- Construct a timeline of events in the life of Sarah Dickey.
- Examine significant events and details about her life.
- Compose an essay about the life of Sarah Dickey.
Opening the Lesson
The teacher will ask the students the following questions:
- What type of career interests you?
- Why do you want to pursue this career?
- Why do you think teachers chose education?
During the class discussion, the teacher will inform the students that they will learn about the life and career of Mississippi teacher Sarah Dickey.
Developing the Lesson
- As the students read the Mississippi History Now article on Sarah Dickey, they will take note of significant events in order to construct a timeline.
- With a partner, students will create a timeline outlining what they feel are the ten most significant events in the life of Sarah Dickey. The students will create the timelines on unlined paper or small poster board.
- Once the students complete the timeline, the teacher will ask for student volunteers to share the events listed on their timelines. During the discussion, the teacher will ask the students why they consider the events selected as important to the life of Sarah Dickey.
- The teacher will distribute a copy of the Sarah Dickey worksheet to each student. Once the students complete the worksheet, they will share their work in small groups.
Closing the Lesson
Using their previous work and the Mississippi History Now article, the teacher will ask the students to write an essay about Sarah Dickey’s life that addresses the following questions:
- How did the time period of Sarah Dickey’s life create both opportunity and obstacles for her work in education?
- Why should Sarah Dickey be remembered exemplary educator?
Assessing Student Learning
- Class participation
- Small group discussion
- Sarah Dickey Life Chart
Extending the Lesson
- Compare and contrast the training and education of teachers today to the training of teachers during the nineteenth century.
- Plan a Sarah Dickey Day program to be celebrated during National Education Week or Teacher Appreciation Week that also incorporates honoring current teachers.
- Invite a guest speaker to talk about the history of local schools.
- Invite a guest speaker to talk about teacher education programs.
- Have students research the history of their school or school district.
- Use other Mississippi History Now articles, such as the ones listed below, to create a unit that incorporates contemporary Mississippi history events in the life of Sarah Dickey.
- The Clinton Riot of 1875: From Riot to Massacre
- Reconstruction in Mississippi, 1865-1876
- Isaiah T. Montgomery, 1847-1924
- Civil War: Vicksburg During the Civil War (1862-1863): A Campaign; A Siege
Other Mississippi History Now articles:
Karla Smith is the Social Studies Department Chair at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jefferson Davis Campus.