Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes was born in Washington, D.C. in 1890 to parents Dr. William Lofton and Mrs. Lavina Day Lofton. Her father was a dentist and a strong supporter of black businesses, her mother was active within the Catholic Church. Dr. Haynes followed in her mother’s footsteps and also became active in the church; she was even awarded the Papal Medal for her excellent service within her community. In 1907 Dr. Haynes would graduate from M. Street High School, she would next attend and graduate from Minor Normal School in 1909, later in 1914 she would earn her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and with her minor in psychology from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Three years later she would marry her longtime friend Mr. Harold Appo Haynes who was a school principal and deputy superintendent of schools in Washington, D.C.
In 1930 Dr. Haynes would earn her master’s degree in education from the University of Chicago, she also founded the mathematics department at Minor College that same year. The mathematics department was an astute training ground for African-American math teachers whose job was to prepare the teachers to prepare the students to succeed. Dr. Haynes was a professor of mathematics at Minor College as well as head of the math department for thirty years; she also taught within the Washington D.C. school system for 47 years. In 1943 at the age of fifty-three Dr. Haynes earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from Catholic University of America, this made her the first African-American women to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics in the United States. As a teacher within the Washington D.C. school system she made a significant impact on the students and the communities. She was a math teacher at Armstrong High School, an English teacher at Minor Normal School, Chairperson and teacher of the math department at Dunbar High School, and finally mathematics professor and chair of the math and business departments at District of Columbia Teachers College.
Dr. Haynes developed a strong reputation for using her influence to fight racism and inequality within the D.C. school systems. She constantly led the charge challenging the school systems policies that were rooted in segregation. From 1960 to 1968 Dr. Haynes would serve as the president of the Washington, D.C. Board of Education; this made her the first African-American women to hold that position. Under her presidency Washington D.C. school teachers earned collective bargaining rights, teachers now had the power to control their working conditions. She was one of the leaders pushing to desegregate the Washington D.C. school system as well as a strong opponent of the “track system.” This “track system” placed black students on a vocational track based off of their grades early in their school career. This system was designed to block black children from going to college or studying subjects that lead them away from a life of servitude.
Dr. Haynes used her platform to help make a significant difference in the lives of the people she came in contact with on a regular basis. In 1962 she was elected a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1980 at the age of ninety Dr. Haynes passed away and left a legacy that would open doors for black women in science and mathematics for years to come. She would leave at $700,000 donation to the Catholic University of America, which they used to establish a student loan fund. Dr. Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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