Denver’s first black teacher turns 100

DENVER — Marie Greenwood was born in 1912 in Los Angeles. She moved to Arizona, and then to Colorado in the ’20s.

From an early age she knew teaching was her calling, but Denver was run, in those days by the Ku Klux Klan so segregation was in full effect in the Mile Hi City.

Still, she kept her dream of teaching alive by being a great student.

She was the only Black freshman at East High, when counselors told her being a maid or cook was in her future. She promptly left East for West, graduated and got a teaching degree from the University of Northern Colorado.

Even with her teaching degree, she was kept away from any school unless it was on the east side, where Blacks mainly were allowed to live in those days.

She taught ten years at Whittier Elementary, until she and her husband, Bill Greenwood, built a home four blocks from Lakewood and a block from Newlon Elementary, where she was allowed to sub but not be a full time teacher. The administration told her Whites would never let a Black teach their kids.

Having lived thru the racism of the day, Ms. Greenwood experienced ‘colored only’ days most can’t even imagine today.  They sat in the balcony of any theater they went to — could only go to bathrooms designated for Blacks.

While she never let any of this hold her back, she did say the thrill of her life was living long enough to “see a President of my color be elected” coupled with the fact that on his last campaign stop, the President watched her give the pledge and then hug her in the receiving line.

“I want that picture!” said the hundred-year old educator, who has authored several books on education and is just finishing up her autobiography which she wrote in long-hand.


Related Stories