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Maudelle Bousfield (1885-1971)

Maudelle Bousfield was an American educator. Born in St. Louis, Bousfield attended Charles Kunkel Conservatory of Music while growing up. In 1903, she enrolled at the University of Illinois and graduated with honors in 1906 with degrees in astronomy and mathematics. She was the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Illinois. Afterward, Bousfield took courses at the Chicago Mendelssohn School of Music and earned a Master’s degree in education from the University of Chicago.  After fulfilling her educational goals, Bousfield started playing piano and teaching math. In 1926, she took the principal’s exam and the next year was assigned to head Keith Elementary School as the first African American school principal within Chicago Public Schools District. A decade later, Bousfield became the first African American high school principal in the same district, and headed the predominantly Black Wendell Phillips High School. 


Bousfield retired from the educational field in 1950 with hopes of travelling and seeing the world. In her later years she travelled, worked with the United Nego College Fund (an organization which funds scholarships to Black students and provides scholarships to historically black colleges), and taught at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. She additionally wrote a column for the Chicago Defender newspaper. Bousfield served as the sixth international president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, a historically Black women’s group, and was a member of the National Association of Negro Musicians. In 2013, a new residence hall at the University of Illinois was named in her memory. She will be remembered for her unique passions in education and music.

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