Elizabeth Evelyn Wright
(1872 -1906) A child of Reconstruction, Elizabeth Evelyn Wright was born in Talbotton, Georgia in 1872 to parents who had been born in slavery. She was educated at St. Phillip’s African Methodist Episcopal Church before enrolling in Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in 1888. Booker T. Washington’s wife Olivia became Wright’s mentor and connected her with Tuskegee trustee Judge George W. Kelley, who paid for her education.
Wright left Tuskegee temporarily in her senior year to spend three months teaching in Hampton County. This school was burned and Wright returned to Tuskegee to complete her education.
Wright remained determined. After eight attempts to open a school, many of which ended in arson, she found success in Bamberg County. Modeled on the Tuskegee Institute, Elizabeth Wright founded Denmark Industrial School in 1897, the first of several schools in the rural area. By the following fall, the school was serving 270 students. In 1902, the school was renamed Voorhees Industrial School to honor Ralph Voorhees, who had provided funding for the campus.
In 1906 Wright married fellow Tuskegee graduate and Voorhees’ treasurer Martin Asabee Menafee and died later that year on December 14, 1906 at the age of 34. Her legacy continued as the Voorhees Industrial School became a junior college in 1929 and later Voorhees College, a private four-year institute. In 1923 Voorhees Industrial School became affiliated with the Episcopal Church.