It’s easy to forget that there was a time in Georgia when teaching blacks to read was prohibited by law and punishable with the most violent treatment. Education, the slave master’s knew, was a ticket to freedom. In the decades after slavery ended, segregation was used to provide blacks with inferior resources. Enter Horace E. Tate.
After graduating from Fort Valley State University in 1943, Tate became principal of a Union Point, Georgia school at the age of 20. He was the only person who worked at the school to have a college degree. He then became principal of a school in Greensboro, GA. The learning conditions at the school overwhelmed him. Five hundred students were crammed into 4 classrooms. Many of the books were unusable. Black students from Greene County did not have bus transportation to school like the white students did. Tate was determined to change these inequities.
He organized the local black citizens to demand taxpayer funds to provide equal educational opportunities. After death threats and employment risks, Tate and the citizens succeeded in receiving the additional resources the students needed. Later in his life, when Georgia refused to allow blacks into state doctoral programs, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky.
Tate would go on to achieve plenty of other firsts, including becoming the first African American to run for mayor of Atlanta, GA. He was also the first executive director of the Georgia Association of Educators, Georgia’s teacher’s union, and before that, executive secretary (chief executive) of the newly integrated Georgia Teachers and Education Association. There, he established a legacy of joining black teachers with white teachers to ensure that every Georgia student had access to quality education and resources, no matter the color of the student or the teacher.
Tate was elected to serve in the Georgia State Senate in 1974, where he served for 16 years as a key legislator in advancing educational opportunity and protecting voting rights. His daughter, Dr. Horacena Tate, now holds that senate seat.
In 2000, the Georgia State Legislature designated U.S. Interstate 75 north of Atlanta, between Interstates 85 and 285, as the Horace E. Tate Freeway.
Learn more about Dr. Horace E. Tate from the University of Kentucky.