Zora Felton, the first black graduate of Moravian Women’s College, is remembered as a pioneer

No matter what Zora Martin Felton achieved, she always aimed to shift the spotlight from herself and improve the performance of others.

“She was a very kind person,” said Martin Felton’s niece, Darlene Kerns. “If others make a difference by moving their lives forward or doing something bigger in their lives, she will shed light on them and admit them.”

The first black woman to graduate from Moravian Women’s College in 1952. Martin Felton died on March 11th at the age of 91.. Her family, her friends and colleagues said she was a pioneer in the community and a driving force for positive change while growing up in the Lee High Valley and pursuing a career as a museum curator in Washington, DC. rice field.

“I felt it was a great honor,” said Easton’s 63-year-old Kerns. “And that’s what I planted in my children. I’ve always been proud of how she was the first black man to graduate from Moravian University and then became the co-director of the Anacostia Museum. I was very honored and wonderful. “

G. Christopher Hunt, Vice President of Moravian University in Bethlehem and Dean of Equity and Inclusion, met Martin Felton in the spring of 2016 during a graduate networking event through the University’s Black Student Union. Martin Felton was in his mid-80s at the time.

“She was as graceful and classy as you read about her,” Hunt said. “She was delighted and really impressed to hear about the progress and opportunities for black students, and at the same time, some of her experiences as a student, or what the current students at the time experienced. I was disappointed to know that. “

Martin Felton was president of advanced classes and student organizations while in Moravia. According to her college archives, she also won the Presidential Award for Outstanding Seniors. She played for the field hockey team, the women’s basketball team, was a member of Phi Mu Epsilon and was a student leader.

She also worked as an elevator operator at Hotel Bethlehem for four years.

“I wonder if much of that activity, or that spirit, took root here when she was on her journey,” Hunt said. “But when I entered graduate school, I think she really saw the opportunity to talk about black people.”

She graduated from Moravia with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences. She then earned her master’s degree in education from Howard University in 1980.

“I don’t think people often think that these institutions weren’t really intended, were built for people of color, and were built for black students,” Hunt said. I did. “So I think the fact that she was able to work hard through four years of college in a place that wasn’t intended for her is pretty remarkable.”

More than 10 years after graduating from Moravia, Martin Felton Anacostia Community Museum In Washington, DC she worked at a museum that was part of the Smithsonian Castle from 1967 to 1994.

Melanie Adams, director of the Anacostia Community Museum, did not have the opportunity to work with Martin Felton, but she said, “Her heritage is everywhere in this museum.”

“And like its founder, John Kinard, she was a community activist in the sense that she worked in the community to improve the condition of people living east of the river,” Adams said. “It’s not just telling them about the problem, so how can we work together as a community to solve the problem? So I think she really saw the museum as a place of education. Whoever you talk about her Everyone would say that’s what she emphasized: education. “

In an exhibition called “Rat: Man’s Invited Affliction,” Martin Felton took live mice to the museum and taught them how to manage the excess rat population in the community. In “Lorton Reformatory: Beyond Time,” she provided a platform for imprisoned men to tell stories through songs and dramas.

“It was innovative not only because of the live mice, but also because the museum was the first Smithsonian to be associated with the community,” Adams said. “She was able to find out and understand what the community needed.”

She also established the Museum’s Youth Council in the early and mid-1970s, working with teens and young adults in the area to take them on trips outside the United States.

“Living in Anacostia doesn’t mean you can’t learn about the world,” Adams said. “So she was essentially very intentional in exposing the children in her neighborhood to a world beyond Anacostia, and she is still proud to be from Anacostia. I think I was doing it the way. “

But Martin-Felton’s influence wasn’t felt solely in the Anacostia Museum and the surrounding community, Adams said. Her work has influenced museums around the world.

“You can’t speak [the Anacostia Community Museum] Without talking about the mouse exhibit — that’s what everyone knows, ”she said. “So I think she generally has a legacy of museum education in that she is innovative and relevant. By coming to ACM, running the program and working with the community. I think he really brought it to the forefront.

“So, as a community-based museum, she understood it as she was advancing, and it really became a model for the field.”

A. Reed Raymond is one of the organizers of the 2016 Graduation Event in Moravia with the aim of bringing back past graduates and providing support and advice to current students, especially black students. is.

A Moravian graduate in the 1970s, Raymond was president of the University’s first African-American organization, the Black Initiatives Association. He first met Martin Felton at the 2016 event.

“In interacting, talking and observing her, she was clearly very kind and considerate, provided a lot of support and shared her experiences with all of us, especially African-American female students who attended Moravia. He was the one who did it now. ” “But obviously, knowing that she was the first, it brought me to endure first, and with the students, who were probably more than 50 years junior. Observing her interacting and mixing was not a problem, and in my view what she was based on being able to observe their interactions. You can see if you were a person. “

Alexis Wiggley, one of the co-founders of the University’s Black Student Union, was also able to meet Martin Felton during the alumni event.

Wigley, 26, from southern Illinois, said Martin Felton was welcoming, but she just talked briefly.

“It’s pretty exciting to see what she did for the community, and sometimes I want to look back and ask the right questions or better questions,” she said. “If I knew a little more about her, I would really ask her a question and be one of the leading black student leaders, like her wonderful heart and her experience first. You could really dive into it. You can take the campus and take it off the campus to the world and become a leader in that respect as well. “

Wigley, who graduated from Moravia in 2017, said that looking back on Martin Felton’s time in Moravia, he saw something in common, especially since both were active on campus.

“She seemed to be deeply involved in the campus,” Wigley said. “At that time, I was the same, so in a sense, I felt like I wasn’t following her footsteps, but without knowing it, I followed her lead and joined the campus and was very active. rice field. .

“At the event, I didn’t necessarily know them, but in retrospect, seeing everything she did, it’s exciting.”

Martin Felton was adopted by Kerns’ grandmother at the age of nine after his parents died, Kerns said. The family had eight brothers, including Alfred, Arthur, Elmer, Leroy, James Smith, Dorothy Hall, Lillian Taylor, and Olive M. Khan.

“She wasn’t adopted. She was our family,” Kerns said. “She was my mother’s sister-that’s how they knew her. They made no difference. Zora was a success. She never sat still. She She always wanted to learn more. She was a really blessed person. She was a pioneer. “

Kerns was in the immediate vicinity of his aunt and moved from the Valley to Washington, DC to help heal her with cataract and pacemaker surgery.

“And in 2006, I had an open heart surgery,” Kerns recalled. “I was telling her to go to her surgery, and she said,” I want to get up and spend a few weeks with you until you get up, “and she did. “

In 1975, Martin Felton married Edward P. Felton Jr. and became the stepmother of three teenagers.

Her stepchild, Edward Felton, said, “The way to raise her child was through lessons that allowed us to go and look for information.”

“When she was at home, she was just a bonus mom,” Felton said. “She didn’t shatter her achievements. She always downplayed her success and allowed her people to shine brighter.

“After she died, I learned a lot about her and lived with her. She was a wonderful, humble person and spiritual.”

Her life was already filled with awards and acknowledgments, Felton said, and helping others was part of her mission.

“Looking at her entire life, she said, where she went, what she did, and because she received it last, others received it first and the light was shining,” Felton said. “She did everything for everyone and she didn’t really care to shed light on herself.”

Wake-up reporter Molly Billinsky can contact you at the following address:

Zora Felton, the first black graduate of Moravian Women’s College, is remembered as a pioneer

Source link Zora Felton, the first black graduate of Moravian Women’s College, is remembered as a pioneer

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