Josephine was born in Salisbury, North Carolina, on October 11, 1861, just after the outbreak of the Civil War. Her parents, Lafayette and Annie Henderson, were slaves. After the war was won and the Emancipation achieved, the Hendersons worked hard to ensure a quality education for their daughter. Josephine, who could read by the age of five, started school in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was later enrolled in historically black Scotia Seminary in nearby Concord. To earn her college degree, she attended college at Bethany Institute in upstate New York. Upon graduation, Josephine accepted her first teaching position at the elementary school located in Mayesville, South Carolina.
In 1882, when the young educator was 21, she married William Henry Heard from Georgia, also a teacher and a former slave. Later William became a prominent minister in the AME Church. The pair traveled the world together, including Liberia, as part of his work for the church.
In addition to being a dedicated teacher, Josephine was also a gifted poet. In 1890, she published her book Morning Glories, a collection of 72 poems. Her book is currently in the public domain, and can be accessed online through the Hathi Trust at Morning Glories. Although Josephine passed away in Philadelphia in 1921, her spirit lives on in her poetry. To learn more about this amazing teacher, click on this link: AAWW Biographies.