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Nellie Rathbone Bright

2023 Women’s History Month

Nellie Rathbone Bright

Nellie Rathbone Bright was an educator, poet, and author.

Born in Savannah, Georgia, to parents who were college graduates and professionals, Bright, and her family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the early 1910s during the Great Migration.

Bright’s father was an Episcopal priest, and her mother was a teacher and social worker.

She completed most of her education in Philadelphia, graduating from the University of Pennsylvania.

Bright devoted most of her life to her students as a teacher and a principal.

Bright taught in Philadelphia public schools, becoming a principal in 1935 and serving until her retirement in 1952. She inspired generations of African American students.

During the 1920s, she was part of a literary group known as the Black Opals.

In 1927–1928, with Arthur Fauset, she co-edited Black Opals, a literary magazine named after a line from a poem in its first issue. Although it was published in Philadelphia, the magazine was considered part of the larger art world of the Harlem Renaissance.