#TJFWHM18: Portia E. Lovett Bird, the First Female HBCU President, University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Portia E. Lovett Bird, the first female HBCU president at University of Maryland Eastern Shore, was born in 1859 in Clarke County, Virginia.

Portia was a gifted soprano in Storer College’s chorus and went on a concert tour of the United States. She later married Benjamin O. Bird, an educator at the Centenary Biblical Institute. In 1886, the Delaware Conference Academy sent Benjamin and Portia to Somerset County with the task of opening a new school for African-American students. Over many years and iterations, this school eventually became University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

From 1886 to 1897, Portia served as an instructor of physiology and elocution at the Princess Anne Academy. Following Benjamin’s death in 1897, Portia took over as the principal of the school, a position she held until her own death in 1899.

In addition to being an accomplished educator and administrator, Mrs. Lovett Bird also raised a family of nine children. The Bird family legacy continued through their daughter, Crystal, who served as the nation’s first African-American woman state legislator and as a race relations adviser in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration.

Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White is Director of Digital Strategy for the Tom Joyner Foundation, a writer and editor.

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