When Dr. Anne Pruitt-Logan signed on to a biography project 10 years ago, it wasn’t because she felt an urge to write another book. A retired Ohio State University professor who was working at the Council of Graduate Schools in Washington D.C., she was already a published author and had a full schedule.
But when her friend, Dr. Carroll L.L. Miller, needed an editor for a book he was writing on Lucy Diggs Slowe, a founder of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and the first dean of women at Howard, Pruitt-Logan agreed to help out. The idea for the book was initially conceived by Marion Thompson Wright, a professor of education at Howard University. Wright had become interested in writing about Slowe, and published a short piece in a book called Notable American Women, in 1960. That article led her to pen a book about Slowe’s life, but before she could present her work to a publisher, she was found dead in her car one day in 1962. Miller, a former student of Slowe’s and a Howard faculty member, decided to complete the book. When he died in 2003, Pruitt-Logan took over the project, the third writer to have attempted to complete a biography about Slowe.
"I had been visiting Dr. Miller while he was ill. His estate gave the manuscript to me when he died,” Pruitt-Logan said. “So, I had to finish the book."
Writing evenings, Pruitt-Logan became a historian in all things related to Slowe. According to her research, Slowe was orphaned shortly after her birth in Berryville, Va., in 1885, just 20 years after the end of slavery. Despite her modest beginning, she went on to win a national tennis title in 1917 and was one of the original 16 founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the first Black sorority, which started at Howard in 1908. She created the first junior high school for Black students, Shaw Junior High, in the District of Columbia; and became the first dean of women at Howard University in the late 1920s. Two buildings located in the nation’s capital, Slowe Elementary School and Slowe Hall, a residence hall at Howard University, were named in her honor.
Eight years and countless hours after she started, Faithful to the Task at Hand: The Life of Lucy Diggs Slowe, was published in June.
“In this long overdue biography, Carroll L. L. Miller and Anne S. Pruitt-Logan tell the remarkable story of Slowe’s steadfast determination working her way through college, earning respect as a teacher and dean, and standing up to Howard’s president and board of trustees in insisting on equal treatment of women,” a review of the book on Amazon.com said. “Along the way, the authors weave together recurring themes in African American history: the impact of racism, the importance of education, the role of sports, and gender equality.”
In an interview with the AFRO, Pruitt-Logan, of McLean, explained the difficulty she faced in writing and publishing the biography. Many publishers, including Ohio State, where she had spent the majority of her career, refused to publish it, she said.
Once she began writing, she realized there was pertinent information missing from the manuscript. She wanted the struggle and victories of Black people reflected in the work, not just the accomplishments of Slowe.
“It was a parallel society back then,” she said. “We had Black banks, we had Black schools. We even had Black millionaires.”
Pruitt-Logan is scheduled to sign copies of Faithful to the Task at Hand: The Life of Lucy Diggs Slowe at the alumni book fair at the Howard University Bookstore on Saturday, October 20, 2012, from 2-4 p.m.