The Montessori approach to education is an inclusive and globally-centered one. As we celebrate Black History Month this February, we would like to recognize the contribution of two of many Black American Montessorians who lived these Montessori values and made significant contributions in their communities: Mae Arlene Gadpaille and Roslyn Davis Williams.
In 1964, Mae Arlene Gadpaille opened a Montessori Family Center in Boston’s predominantly Black Roxbury neighborhood. Using funds from a grant Gadpaille received from the Ford Foundation, the Montessori Family Center provided the neighborhood’s working-class Black families with affordable full-day, year-round childcare. Her efforts meant that children received a meaningful Montessori learning experience and helped to combat the cycle of poverty in the community.
In 1967, Roslyn Davis Williams faced the imminent closure of her daughter's Montessori preschool program. Determined to fight for what she knew to be a valuable educational experience for her child and others in the community, she and a group of parents founded the Central Harlem Association of Montessori Parents (CHAMP, Inc.). Chosen to lead as CHAMP’s president, Williams went on to successfully establish a permanent, racially-integrated CHAMP preschool.
While the stories of these women may not be as familiar to us as Dr. Maria Montessori’s, their commitment to the values of Montessori education and their communities have made a difference in countless lives and continue to inspire us today.