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July 17, 1909
On July 17, 1909, the Baltimore Afro-American reported on a recent meeting of the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools. “The president of the association is R. R. Wright, who is also the president of the Georgia State Industrial College at Savannah,” the paper noted. “Dr. Wright is one of the most distinguished Negroes in America. It was he who when a mere boy, shortly after the close of the civil war, gave that now famous answer to a request for a message to the north from General O. O. Howard, who was then at Atlanta, ‘Tell them we are rising.’”
Wright told the conference of educators, “Our teachers are a powerful force in developing character and bettering social conditions, but the relation between the teacher and the home of the child must somehow be made closer. The teacher must work not only with the pupil, but with the parent. A great responsibility rests upon the teachers. It is taken for granted that they see the need of organization, and that they understand the task that is set before them, and that they know that in this age of electricity and combination individual effort must be strengthened and made most effective by co-operation with others working in the same sphere.”
Richard Robert Wright’s son, R. R. Wright Jr., earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, as did Ruth Wright Hayre, the daughter of R. R. Wright Jr. Ruth Wright Hayre was the first African-American high school principal in Philadelphia, and she improved the educational opportunities for black students in the city. She titled her autobiography Tell Them We Are Rising, in a nod to her grandfather.