The First African American Teacher in the Little Rock school District
Charlotte “Lottie” Andrews was born in 1854 in Little Rock to William Wallace Andrews, a mulatto slave to U.S. Senator Chester Ashley, and Caroline Williams Andrews, a slave to the Noah Badgett family.
Charlotte Andrews began her education in a private school started by her father in his church, Wesley Chapel at 8th and Broadway in Little Rock. He gave the school to the visiting American Missionaries Association when he went north to study. In 1867, they moved the school to 6th and State and renamed it the Union School.
Two years later, in 1869, at the age of fifteen, Ms. Andrews, the best student in class at the school, was chosen to substitute for her own teacher, who had become ill near the end of the school year. In the same period, the city of Little Rock organized its own public-school system and bought the Union School. At the end of that school term, Ms. Andrews and three other black teachers were hired for the following year, thus making her the first black teacher in the system because she had taught part of the preceding school year. After teaching one full year, Ms. Andrews took a leave of absence to attend Oberlin College in Ohio which she attended for three years all the while returning to Little Rock to teach and earn money to pay for her schooling.
In 1873, she returned to Little Rock permanently and although she continued to work on her teaching credentials, unfortunately, she was never able to finish her degree. Ms. Andrews married John Herbert Stephens and had eight children. She worked as a teacher in Little Rock for seventy years before her retirement in 1939 at the age of 85. Mrs. Stephens’ extraordinary career included teaching in all grades as an elementary school teacher, a high school teacher, principal of Capitol Hill School and finally retiring as a teaching librarian at Dunbar high school.
Stephens Elementary School in Little Rock was named for her in 1910 becoming the first school named for a woman. The original school has rebuilt twice, first in 1950 and again with the current building in 2001. Mrs. Stephens was the first African American to be accredited by the North Central Association and was a charter member of th e national Association of Colored Women (NACW) federated club in Little Rock. She was honored at public ceremony in 1950 by an all-white Little Rock School Board for her teaching career.
We are proud to honor her legacy and strive to meet her expectations for providing an excellent education for children.
Adapted from The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture: Encyclopedia of Arkansas