Black Woman Named President of Boarding School Which Was Restricted to White Male Students for 117 Years

Girard College is a boarding school in Philadelphia that first opened its doors in 1848. Funded by a grant from the estate of Stephen Girard, who at the time of his death may have been the richest man in America, the school was founded to provide college preparatory education for white male orphans.

No black students were permitted to enroll at the school for its first 117 years. Then, as a result of a lawsuit, civil rights picketing, and a visit by Martin Luther King Jr., the school’s trustees decided to admit black male students. Another lawsuit in 1984 opened the school to girls.

Now the boarding school for low-income boys and girls of all races has named an African-American woman as president. Autumn Adkins will take over the leadership of Girard College this summer. Formerly, she was the assistant principal at Friends Seminary, a Quaker school in New York City. Adkins, now 36 years old, is a graduate of the University of Virginia.

The school currently enrolls 669 students in grades 1 through 12. Tuition and room and board are free for all students.