Nebraska’s Lucy Gamble, the first African American teacher in Omaha

Many talented schoolteachers can also be applauded for their historic firsts. One such teacher is Lucinda (Lucy) Gamble, an elementary school teacher who was the first African American to be hired to work in Omaha public schools.

Lucy was born Lucinda Anneford Gamble on September 9, 1875, in Lincoln, Nebraska, the oldest of eight children of her parents, William and Evaline Gamble. The family moved to Omaha when she was five years old. As an elementary student, Lucy was first enrolled in the Old Dodge School, but later transferred to Pacific School. She graduated from Omaha Central High School in 1893.

Following her graduation from high school, Lucy enrolled in Omaha Normal School, a college which trained future teachers. She completed her two-year course of study there in 1895. “My teacher in the Normal school tried very hard to discourage me from going to the school as she said that I never would secure employment in the school system,” Lucy once recalled. But she must have been a very impressive candidate, because within three months of her graduation, Lucy was offered a position at her former elementary school, the Old Dodge School. With this appointment, Lucy became Omaha’s first African American school teacher. Later¬†Lucy transferred to Cass School.

After six years of teaching, according to the custom of the day, Lucy resigned when she married the Reverend John Albert Williams, the son of a former slave who had escaped to Canada through the Underground Railroad. After the Civil War was won, John immigrated to the United States, landed in Nebraska, and became an activist for the African American community. The couple had one son they named Worthington, and two daughters, Catherine and Dorothy.

Even though she was no longer teaching, Lucy continued to serve her community. For ten years, she was the chairperson of the the board of the Omaha’s Negro Old People’s Home, and she was a prominent member of the Omaha Colored Women’s Club. In addition, she also served on the board of the Omaha chapter of the NAACP.

Read a transcript of Lucy Gamble’s personal history on file at the Library of Congress at this link:¬†Lucy Gamble.