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Perspective | Remembering Jeanes teachers and carrying on their legacy of supporting Black female education leaders

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As we leave behind March — Women’s History Month — we’re continuing to celebrate the incredible stories of the women who precede us, including the Jeanes teachers. We strive to honor their legacy through the work of Profound Ladies, Inc

Jeanes teachers, also known as Jeanes supervisors or Jeanes industrial teachers, were African American women educators who played a crucial role in the education system in the southern United States during the Jim Crow era. They were named after Anna T. Jeanes, a philanthropist who funded the program. Anna T. Jeanes established the Negro Rural School Fund, often called the Jeanes Fund, in 1907 with $1 million to address the needs of small rural schools for Blacks in the South.

Jeanes teachers worked to improve public health, living conditions, and teacher training, started self-improvement and canning clubs, and truly did whatever was most needed in the community.

“The Jeanes teachers’ informal motto was to do ‘the next needed thing,'” according to the Durham County Public Library’s website on the teachers and the Rosenwald Schools they often ran. “That this work was done in the South during the Jim Crow era, a time when any action by the Black community to better itself might be met with harsh suspicion — or violence — by the dominant white community, is nothing short of astonishing.”

Their impact extended beyond the classroom, as they advocated for social change and racial equality. Jeanes teachers contributed significantly to advancing civil rights and empowering marginalized communities by providing education and mentorship to generations of African American students. Their dedication and resilience inspired future generations of educators and activists, which is synonymous with the work of Profound Ladies as we work to carry their torch. 

Profound Ladies is an organization of women who have made significant and lasting impacts in various fields, including education, politics, science, arts, and activism. The organization’s members are women with exceptional achievements, leadership, and profound contributions to their classrooms, schools, and local communities. Today, Profound Ladies leads the state with a retention rate of 95% and support for over 200 teachers nationwide.

More than 50% of their teachers are from North Carolina. Profound Ladies works in collaboration with like minded organizations as a part of the Freedom Hill Coalition, a consortium of BIPOC organizations led by the Center for Racial Equity in Education (CREED). The coalition’s combined efforts contribute to broader conversations about racial equity and social justice, highlighting the intersectionality of race, gender, and identity. 

Most recently, Profound Ladies led a campaign in support of the CROWN Act. The CROWN Act, “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” is a federal bill that aims to prohibit discrimination based on hairstyle and hair texture, mainly targeting policies and practices that disproportionately affect Black individuals. These discriminatory practices often manifest in workplaces, schools, and other institutions, where Black women are unfairly penalized or discriminated against for wearing natural hairstyles like braids, locs, or afros.

By engaging in conversations about the CROWN Act, we at Profound Ladies are actively working to raise awareness about issues and advocate for policy changes that promote inclusivity and respect for diverse cultural expressions.

Profound Ladies is not another professional development organization. Rooted in the inheritance of Black women educators in the South from slavery to present day, Profound Ladies greets BIPOC women teachers with the open arms and community of support they are owed. Profound Ladies offers a network of care and dignity to BIPOC teachers who report workplace toxicity, micro-aggressions, overt racism, racialized trauma, and disrespect as reasons they leave the field. 

Overall, we are committed to empowering Black women and challenging systemic injustices that perpetuate discrimination and inequality. As members of the organization, women work to create meaningful change. Profound Ladies has a comprehensive curriculum centering on teachers’ well-being with heavy emphasis on trauma-informed practices. These practices have offered respite to women who are often the last to be supported as they fall into the “strong” women tropes.

“My experience with the Profound Ladies has been a source of support for me,” one member shared. “Even as an older educator, the fellowship with these younger educators has been phenomenal. The monthly wellness cards and happy mail gifts always lift my spirts. I am inspired from the work I see and hear about from the other members of the group. Encouragement and a sense of belonging to a group of women who truly support each other has helped me this year adjust to both a new role and new environment.”

“Joining Profound Ladies during the pandemic was a transformative experience,” another member said. “The dedicated coaches provided consistent support, offering guidance in virtual teaching and emphasizing mental health.”

These women often overcome significant obstacles and challenges to achieve their goals, breaking barriers and inspiring future generations with their resilience, determination, and vision. They serve as role models for empowerment, equality, and social change, leaving a legacy that continues to shape our world today

You can learn more here, and district leaders can create partnerships by emailing

Keiyonna Dubashi
Keiyonna Dubashi is a veteran educator with over 20 years of experience in education. Dubashi is the founder and executive director of Profound Ladies. She resides in North Carolina with her husband and three children.