Josephine Holloway (1898-1988) was one of the first African-American Girl Scout troop leaders and the first black Girl Scout executive in Middle Tennessee. She began lobbing for an official troop for the black girls in Nashville, Tennessee in 1933. Her request was denied by the Nashville Girl Scout Council based on the high cost of maintaining a separate facility. At the time, segregation and discrimination were commonplace. In order for African-American girls to participate in Girl Scouts, they would have to have a segregated troop because local laws did not allow races to mix.
In true Girl Scout fashion, Holloway refused to give up. She started an unofficial troop and helped other black parents in the community do the same. They found ways to purchase the handbooks which the local Girl Scout Council Council would not allow them to buy. They taught the girls the Girl Scout promise, all the laws, and they trained the girls to be “real” Girl Scouts. Their numbers grew, and eventually, they could no longer be denied. After nearly 10 years of persistence, in 1942, the region’s first African-American Girl Scout troop was officially recognized.
Holloway was hired as a field advisor for Girl Scouts of America in 1944. She was highly respected for her experience and expertise on girl’s issues. She held the position until her retirement in 1963, it is reported that she supervised over 2000 African-American girls and adults during her tenure with the Girl Scouts of America. The process of desegregating the organization began in 1951, full desegregation was completed in 1962.
We honor Josephine Holloway for her commitment to equality, her persistence in the face of adversity, and her contribution to the advancement of Civil Rights. She made history!
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