On this day in 2002, elementary school teacher Frances T. Matlock died at the age of 95.
Born in Chicago on January 6, 1907, Matlock attended Proviso East High School and graduated as the only African American in her graduating class of 1924. While in school, several of Matlock’s teachers encouraged her to enter the education field.
After graduating high school, Matlock earned her associate’s degree from Chicago Normal College and then a bachelor’s degree in Education from Northwestern University. Graduating with her degree in 1928, Matlock then took up positions with both Hayes Elementary School and Forestville Elementary School where she taught Social Studies. She additionally served on the Chicago Public School’s Board of Education.
Aside from working in elementary education, she also played a large role in community activism as well as serving as an advisor to the NAACP’s Youth Leadership Council. By participating in multiple marches in protest of lynching, Matlock inspired many future civil rights leaders.
Shortly after, she began raising funds in order to establish the Southside Community Art Center. In 1941, the center was dedicated by Eleanor Roosevelt. Working as a public relations assistant on a national level, Matlock played a large role in the original March-on-Washington, during which protestors rallied for President Roosevelt to provide jobs for African Americans in the defense plans for World War II.
From 1953 to 1993, Matlock worked as an archivist and publicity chairman for an organization that worked with college students to provide financial assistance, the Chicago Chapter of The Links, Inc.
In 1999, Matlock received the Golden Alumnus Award from Chicago State University. For being such an advocate for the Jamaican community, she was awarded Special Recognition from the Consul of Jamaica. Matlock now holds a place in the Chicago Senior Citizen’s Hall of Fame.