Edythe Hargrave Turner
Edythe Elizabeth Turner, born Edythe Elizabeth Hargraves, was an African American student who attended Miami University beginning from 1939 to 1943. She was born on February 20th, 1921 to parents Arthur Hammond Hargraves and Anna Langford Hargraves in Oxford, Ohio, where her parents were employed by the university as a janitor and cook, respectively. Her two brothers, William and Langford, attended Miami in the 1920s, with William becoming one the first two African American students to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree from the school in 1925. Edythe graduated from Stewart High School in Oxford before enrolling at Miami University as an Education major in the fall of 1939.
During her time at Miami, Edythe was a member of Le Travailleurs, the first known African American student organization on campus. First organized in 1929 under the name Kappa Sigma Delta, the club had unsuccessfully petitioned to be recognized as an official fraternity in 1932. It would take another six years of operating as an unofficial student organization for Kappa Sigma Delta to be recognized by Miami under the name “The Colored Students Club” in 1938, changing its name back to Kappa Sigma Delta and then Le Travailleurs shortly thereafter. Edythe was also selected for membership in Kappa Delta Pi, a national education honorary, and the Liberal Arts-Alethenai, an English honorary for women.
In 1942, she wrote an essay titled “How I Feel as a Negro at a White College,” which was then published by The Journal of Negro Education, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by Howard University. In the essay, Edythe spoke to the discrimination and prejudice she has faced while a student at Miami. She recalled how she and other Black students were excluded from membership in sororities, called racial slurs by their white classmates, and experienced both social alienation and what she called “a keen sense of inferiority” during their courses. However, despite the many struggles she faced attending a predominantly white institution, she asserted the importance of perseverance, fortitude, and tolerance in making the most of her education. “I would be a fool to let these immature white students ruin my chance for a college education,” she wrote. “I must go on.” And go on she did— Edythe graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education with a focus on English in the spring of 1943.
Following her graduation from Miami, Edythe began working as a secretary at Wilbur Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base), where she remained during the World War II years. She then returned to Miami in 1945 to work as a secretary for the university in the Department of Home Economics and Division of Secondary Education. According to family accounts, she was the first African American to be professionally hired by Miami. A leader in the Oxford community, Edythe served as secretary of the local branch of the NAACP and was a member of the American Association of University Women. She was active in both the Bethel A.M.E. Church and the Fortnightly Club, a women’s group that helped fundraise for annual scholarships awarded to local African American high school seniors, providing them with financial aid to attend college upon their graduation.
Edythe Hargrave Turner passed away on March 11th, 1947 at the age of twenty-five after a period of illness. She is buried in Woodside Cemetery.
Note: Unlike other Hargraves family members, Edythe appears to have dropped the “s” from her last name in all documentation, going by Hargrave. This is the spelling that will be used for this biography.
Written by Laurel Myers, (4, History & American Studies, 2023)
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Florence E. Wagner, Walter C. McNelly, and Chairman Halbert C. Christofferson. “A Memorial to Edyth Hargrave Turner.” May 20, 1947, Miami University Faculty Memorial Statements, Miami University Digital Collections. URL: https://digital.lib.miamioh.edu/digital/collection/facmem/id/110/rec/1.
Hargrave, Edythe. “How I Feel as a Negro at a White College.” The Journal of Negro Education 11, no. 4 (1942): 484–86. https://doi.org/10.2307/2292689.
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Published: August 11, 2022
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