Miss Lucy Craft Laney has gone down in history as one of the state of Georgia’s most influential educational leaders. As a child of Georgia she is in league with other outstanding black hero’s from Georgia such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Civil Rights Leader and Dr. Henry McNeil Turner, the first black chaplain in the U.S. Army and the first black in the Georgia Legislature. Miss Laney’s contributions in the area of education are a tribute to perseverance, dedication and unwavering faith.
Miss Laney began her teaching career in Macon, Milledgeville, and Savannah before, due to health reasons, settling in Augusta, Georgia. With the encouragement of the Christ Presbyterian Church, USA, Miss Laney started the first school in Augusta, Georgia for black boys and girls. The school opened on January 6, 1883 in the basement of the Christ Presbyterian Church then on 10th and Telfair Street with little money and only six students. Miss Laney did not have much, but what she did have was dedication and determination, which would prove to be all this unique woman would need. In 1885, the first class was graduated from Miss Laney’s school. By that time, the school had 234 students and needed a bigger facility and more money.
In addition to starting her own school, the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, Miss Laney started the first black kindergarten in Augusta, Georgia and the first black nursing school in the city, the Lamar School of Nursing. Many people were influenced by the work that Miss Laney did at Haines. Ms. Mary McCleod Bethune who worked with Miss Laney for a year was so impressed by Miss Laney’s accomplishments that she went to Florida and founded Bethune-Cookman College for Blacks. This outstanding institution continues to thrive and produce thousands of African American students.