Black Valedictorian Recognized After 75 Years

In 1936, Fanetta Nelson Gordon was denied the honor because of her race.

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ABC News reports that after being passed over for the title of valedictorian of Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh because of her race in 1936, Fanetta Nelson Gordon was finally recognized yesterday. Gordon died three years ago at age 88, but her sister, Sophia Phillips Nelson, 93, attended the ceremony and accepted the award on her behalf.

Apparently the school principal pressured a music teacher to change Gordon's grade from an A to a B so she wouldn't be first in her class -- an honor that her older sister, Sophia, had achieved two years earlier. The principal didn't want two black valedictorians within two years, the family says.

The transcript shows the erasure marks, and the high school has finally decided to right the wrong.

Gordon -- whose official transcript ranked her fourth in the 155-student class -- eventually became the accompanist for the National Negro Opera Co. and played at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Hall.

Her niece, Gloria Wofford, says that being deprived of the honor was one of the most painful experiences of her aunt's life. It's a shame that she didn't live to see it resolved, but it's an inspiration that it didn't dampen her success.

Regarding the current students at the high school (which was 5 percent to 10 percent African American when Gordon was there, and 97 percent black today), Wofford says, "We hope that they will take a lesson from this and not let anything stop them."

Read more at ABC News.

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