Selena Sloan Butler was a woman of firsts. Born to black mother and a white father in Thomasville, Georgia, just seven years after the abolition of slavery, Butler lived with only her mother until enrolling in Spelman Seminary School, now known as Spelman College. After marrying a prominent African-American doctor in Atlanta, she gave birth to a son. When he was of age, she began looking for a pre-school to enroll him and, finding none in her racially segregated neighborhood, she simply started one herself. When her son was in primary school, she rallied other parents and started the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers Association, which later combined with its white counterpart to become the National PTA. In 1929 President Herbert Hoover appointed her to serve in the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection. She also co-founded the Spelman College Alumnae Association, organized an Atlanta branch of the YWCA, and was also a delegate to the founding convention of the National Association of Colored Women. In addition to her service to children and within the state of Georgia, Butler made a name for herself in the Red Cross as well by organizing the first black women’s chapter of the Gray Ladies. She died at the age of 92, yet her legacy lives on. Her portrait is hung in the Georgia State Capitol, the City of Atlanta named a park after her in 1966, in 1970 she was officially named one of the founders of the PTA, and as recently as 1995 she was posthumously inducted into the Georgia Women of Achievement Hall of Honorees. Mrs. Butler lives on as a tribute to the power of community organization, service, and triumph.
-Post by Melissa Barwick, Tulane University Student