Elementary school renamed for first black teacher in Hammond Indiana

Maywood Elementary is now known as Annie Burns-Hicks Elementary.

HAMMOND, Indiana— NOTE: The video above is from a previous report on Annie Burns-Hicks.

Hammond’s first black teacher returned to northwest Indiana on Monday for MLK Day ceremonies.

School officials, alumni, and family have recognized Annie Burns-Hicks for the school that now bears her name.

How she got there is a fascinating story.

Her father moved the family to Hammond, Indiana, from Mississippi after witnessing the lynching of two black boys.

“He said, ‘Now I brought you up north for a better life, and the only thing I ask of you is that you try to make this world a better place. I never forgot it. I remember it every day. I tried to do that,” Burns-Hicks said.

She graduated from Ball State Teachers College (now college) and wanted to return home to teach.

She won a court battle to become the city’s first black teacher in the fall of 1960. Her first job was at Maywood Elementary, which is now Annie Burns-Hicks Elementary.

She taught primarily first grade for over 40 years. She said she never sent students to the office but would separate them from the rest of the class until they were ready to behave and cooperate. She produced teaching aids on black history and attempted to combat racism through education.

“I think if people learn to communicate, we can get along,” Annie said. “But if you’re going to fight or fuss, it won’t do anything. It’ll only make it worse. But if you can learn to communicate and help them communicate, that’s fine.”

Annie is now 84 and lives in a senior community in Indianapolis.

Hammond native Roland G. Parrish produced a documentary called “This Wall Must Come Down” about the change she started in their hometown.

About Mark A. Tomlin

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