On January 20, 1876, Drusilla Dunjee was born in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to parents Rev. John William Dunjee and Lydia Ann Taylor Dunjee. Rev. Dunjee worked as a teacher and a preacher who was employed with a Normal School associated with the Baptist Missionary Association. He received a college education at Storer College in West Virginia. Drusilla was one of nine children her parents produced, and one of three who survived to grow into adults. As a young woman, Drusilla attended a preparatory school where she developed the skill of playing the classical piano and actually studied at the Northwestern Conservatory of Music in the state of Minnesota. Rev. John and Lydia Dunjee moved their family to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1892, Rev. John was given a new position in Oklahoma by the Baptist Governing Board. 1892, is also the year Drusilla began teaching kindergarten until the year 1899, during this time, she was one of the first kindergarten teachers within her Oklahoma school district. Drusilla decided to pursue teaching as a career rather than the career of a musician. In 1898, she met and eloped with a man named Price Houston, the couple moved to McAlester, Oklahoma to start their life together. As a teacher in Oklahoma, Drusilla became dissatisfied with the quality of education young black boys, girls, and woman were receiving, so she opened the McAlester Seminary for Girls, a school she operated for twelve years before becoming the principal of the Oklahoma Baptist College for Girls in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, a position she held for six years.
After serving as principal of the Oklahoma Baptist College for Girls, Drusilla and her family moved back to Oklahoma City where she founded her second educational institution, the Oklahoma Vocational Institute of Fine Arts and Crafts. 1934, was the year she began working for the Oklahoma Home for Delinquent Boys as their religious director before she would begin making significant contributions to American literature and African history. In 1926, Drusilla published her groundbreaking book Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire, a book that is considered a classic and made her the first black woman to write a comprehensive multi-volume book covering the history of ancient Africa. The book was written over a twenty-five-year period as Drusilla conducted and compiled her research. During that time, she also contributed to her brother Roscoe’s newspaper the Black Dispatch, which was an important newspaper for black people. After publishing her book, Drusilla faced backlash from prominent black historians and public figures, but over time her works were confirmed to be accurate and pioneering work in revealing ancient African history, decades before a number of our well-known and beloved African scholars. As a journalist, she began her career in 1917 writing for her brother Roscoe’s then newspaper the Bookertee Searchlight before she wrote for his Black Dispatch newspaper. She also wrote for the Arizona Journal and Guide after moving to Arizona in 1935, where she continued to use her words to fight for the rights of her people as well as educate her people about their wonderful past.
Because of health reasons, Drusilla moved to Arizona but she also began to receive praise for her groundbreaking work as a historian of African history, she also became a writer whose works were being syndicated through the Associated Negro Press, an organization she would become the director of for four years. Drusilla was both an advocate and activist for her people, she used her words to educate, motivate and empower, but she actively went into her communities to help found organizations like the Oklahoma YMCA, the Red Cross, the NAACP, and the Dogan Reading Room of Oklahoma. She was honored by the Association of Black Women Historians and Black Classic Press for her work as a historian and journalist. Historians account that she wrote six total volumes of Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire but only volume two survived the years. She was also a poet and an important figure in the history of black people in America, because of her pioneering work to chronicle the history of Ancient Africa. She was the first black woman to write about the history of African people, and one of the first black people period to write about African history. She was fearless, driven, and loved her people so much she dedicated her life to educating her people, serving her people, and empowering them people through her gift of words. To Drusilla Dunjee Huston, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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