The Filson Obtains Items From A Pioneering Black Louisville Educator, Creates Scholarship In Her Name

The Filson Historical Society has acquired an autographed portrait and student register from Black educator Henrietta Helm. 

Helm was born enslaved but became one of the first Black students to attend public schools in Louisville. At the young age of 17, she became a teacher and eventually served as the principal of Portland Colored Evening School. Helm believed that it was never too late in life to learn. 

In August of 2021, Helm’s great-grand nephew Phillip Cherry Sr. donated the items to the Filson for “preservation, access and study,” according to the Filson’s Facebook page. 

In honor of this, the Portland Museum, the Filson Historical Society, the Community Foundation of Louisville, Christina Lee Brown and “I AM” artists Darius Dennis and Jared Diaz are working to raise funds to secure an annual scholarship for the UofL’s Louisville Teacher Residency program. 

The scholarship will be named after Henrietta Helm and help contribute to tuition and fees for one or more LTR students per academic year. The goal is to help remove barriers to becoming an educator. 

From a release:
“Through the combination of public art, historical preservation, and investment in future Black leadership, donors and supporters are forging a new kind of monument that bridges the public art that honors a legacy in service to future generations. It is a tribute to Black women educators — deceased, living, and those yet to come — and their daily work that lifts up lives and determines the future of Louisville.”

Donate to the effort here:

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About the Author

The Filson Obtains Items From A Pioneering Black Louisville Educator, Creates Scholarship In Her Name

Erica Rucker is LEO Weekly’s Arts & Entertainment Editor. In addition to her work at LEO, she is a haphazard writer,  photographer, tarot card reader, and fair to middling purveyor of motherhood. Her earliest memories are of telling stories to her family and promising that the next would be shorter than the first. They never were. You can follow Erica on Twitter, but beware of honesty, overt blackness and occasional geeky outrage.


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