ENTRY

Jennie Serepta Dean (1848–1913)

SUMMARY

Jennie Serepta Dean founded the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth. A formerly enslaved person, Dean attended schools in Fairfax County and Washington, D.C., and in 1878 began to establish a series of Sunday schools. She was a skilled fund-raiser, securing money from African American and white donors in Virginia and in northern cities to support her plan to open a school that would teach skilled trades to young African Americans. The Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth opened in 1894 after nearly six years of fundraising. Dean served on the school’s board of directors and executive committee. She died in 1913.

READING LEVEL
Grade 4

Summary

Jennie Serepta Dean founded the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth. A formerly enslaved person, Dean attended schools in Fairfax County and Washington, D.C., and in 1878 began to establish a series of Sunday schools. She was a skilled fund-raiser, securing money from African American and white donors in Virginia and in northern cities to support her plan to open a school that would teach skilled trades to young African Americans. The Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth opened in 1894 after nearly six years of fundraising. Dean served on the school’s board of directors and executive committee. She died in 1913.

In This Entry

Jennie Serepta Dean was born on April 15, 1848.  Her parents were Charles Dean and Annie Stewart Dean. She was born into slavery in Loudoun County. She found freedom when the American Civil War ended in 1865. Then she went to schools in Fairfax County and Washington, D.C. She worked as a servant. This helped her family pay for a farm in Prince William County after her father died. Dean also paid for one of her sisters to go to school. Dean went to Sunday school at the First Congregational Church in Washington. Later, she joined the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church. She never married.

Dean wanted to help African Americans. Around 1878, she founded a Sunday school in Prince William County. Then she started more Sunday schools in the area. One school became Calvary Chapel, which later became Greater Mount Calvary Christian Church. Building churches cost a lot of money. Dean raised funds locally and in northern cities.  She offered classes in cooking and sewing. Then Dean started to think about building a whole school. Her school would teach skilled trades to young African Americans. In 1888, Dean shared her idea with Black and white people, including ministers. Her sister, a public school teacher, and a white teacher from the county both helped her. Dean and her group chose to build their school on a farm. The site was about a mile from Manassas on the Southern Railway.

Three years later, Dean traveled north to raise funds for the school. She worked as a servant in Boston. She spoke at churches and other places about her plans. Dean was a respectful, clear speaker. She did not give up. Many people gave money to her cause. Early in 1893, Orra Gray Langhorne of Lynchburg invited Dean to give a speech. She traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak with the National American Woman Suffrage Association. While she was there, Dean met Emily Howland, a New Yorker. Howland gave Dean money to finish paying for the farm and to build her school.

In October 1893, the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth received its charter. After years of praying and planning, Dean reached her goal. A dedication ceremony for the school’s first building took place on September 3, 1894. The building was named Howland Hall. Frederick Douglass was the keynote speaker. The school welcomed its first students in October. Just as Dean wished, the school helped its students find jobs. In addition to other courses, the school offered training in dressmaking, childcare, blacksmithing, cooking, carpentry, shoemaking, and farming. Two fires in 1895 and 1900 burned down its first buildings.

Dean served the school for many years. She was the financial agent. She traveled to Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and the school’s neighboring towns. She spoke about her school and raised funds. She was tireless. She was a delegate to the 1896 annual convention of the National Federation of Afro-American Women. This later became the National Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. She spoke about her work at Manassas. She urged the group to start schools like hers. Dean wanted to spend time at the school itself.  She served as matron and wrote a code of good conduct.

After 1907, Dean did not work as much. Her health grew poor. But her career still mattered. On February 14, 1906, she met Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. She traveled with a group of the Manassas Industrial School’s students and teachers. The meeting was planned by Booker T. Washington. Roosevelt said Dean and Washington had a lot in common. They both believed in working hard to learn a trade. They both wanted African American men and women to focus on earning a living and paying taxes.

For several years, Deane suffered from poor health. She had two strokes. On May 3, 1913, she died at her home near Haymarket. She was buried in the Mount Calvary Baptist Church Cemetery. After her death, her school continued to honor her work.  In 1938, the Manassas Industrial School became a regional high school for Black students. It closed its doors in 1959. The next year it was replaced by Jennie Dean High School. Dean also has a playground, a community center, and an elementary school named in her honor. In 1995, the Manassas Industrial School and Jennie Dean Memorial became part of the Manassas Museum System. The site of Dean’s school is now part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Grade 8

Summary

Jennie Serepta Dean founded the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth. A formerly enslaved person, Dean attended schools in Fairfax County and Washington, D.C., and in 1878 began to establish a series of Sunday schools. She was a skilled fund-raiser, securing money from African American and white donors in Virginia and in northern cities to support her plan to open a school that would teach skilled trades to young African Americans. The Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth opened in 1894 after nearly six years of fundraising. Dean served on the school’s board of directors and executive committee. She died in 1913.

In This Entry

Jennie Serepta Dean was born in Loudoun County on April 15, 1848.  Her parents were Charles Dean and Annie Stewart Dean. She was born into slavery but secured her freedom as a consequence of the American Civil War (1861–1865). She then went to schools in Fairfax County and in Washington, D.C. Dean worked as a domestic servant to help her family purchase a farm in Prince William County after her father’s death. She also paid for one of her sisters to go to school. Dean attended Sunday school at the First Congregational Church in Washington. Later, she joined the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church. She never married.

Dean wanted to improve the lives of African Americans. Around 1878, she began a lifetime of missionary work when she founded a Sunday school in Prince William County. She went on to start more Sunday schools in the area. Several of these became congregations, including Calvary Chapel (later Greater Mount Calvary Christian Church). Dean raised money locally and in northern cities for the construction of church buildings.  She offered classes in cooking and sewing. She began to plan for a school that would teach skilled trades to young African Americans. In 1888, Dean began to organize local support for her idea among Black and white residents, including ministers. She received help from her sister, a public school teacher, and a white teacher from the county. Dean and her group chose the site for the school, a farm located a mile from Manassas on the Southern Railway.

Three years later, Dean traveled north to raise funds for the school. She worked in domestic service in Boston. She spoke at churches and other venues about her plans. Deane was dignified, sincere, direct, and tenacious. Local residents and northern philanthropists contributed to her cause. Early in 1893, Dean made a presentation about the school at the annual meeting of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Her presentation was arranged by Orra Gray Langhorne of Lynchburg.  The meeting took place in Washington, D.C. There Dean met Emily Howland, a New Yorker. Howland donated money to pay the balance on the farm and provide funds for the buildings.

In October 1893, the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth received its charter. Dean’s years of praying and planning had come to fruition. A dedication ceremony for the school’s first building, Howland Hall, took place on September 3, 1894. Frederick Douglass was the keynote speaker. The school welcomed its first students in October. Reflecting Dean’s vision, the school aimed to prepare its students for employment. In addition to liberal arts courses, the school offered training in dressmaking, childcare, blacksmithing, cooking, carpentry, shoemaking, and farming. The school suffered two fires in 1895 and in 1900 that destroyed its first buildings.

For many years Dean served on the school’s board of directors and executive committee. She was the financial agent. In this role, she traveled to Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and the school’s neighboring towns. She was tireless. She promoted her school, raised funds, and served as an advocate for industrial schools in general. Dean preferred being at the school itself.  She served for a time as matron and wrote a code of good conduct. As a delegate to the 1896 annual convention of the National Federation of Afro-American Women (later the National Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs), she spoke about her work at Manassas. She urged the organization to get involved in establishing similar industrial schools.

After 1907, Dean’s influence at the school decreased. Her health deteriorated. But the significance of her career did not diminish. On February 14, 1906, she traveled with a group of the Manassas Industrial School’s students and other faculty members to meet Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. The meeting was arranged by Booker T. Washington. Roosevelt favorably compared Dean to Washington. They both believed in working hard to learn a trade. They both encouraged African American men and women to focus on earning a living and paying taxes before objecting to a lack of opportunities or becoming involved with politics.

For several years, Deane suffered from ill health. She had two strokes. On May 3, 1913, she died of a cerebral hemorrhage at her home near Haymarket. She was buried in the Mount Calvary Baptist Church Cemetery. After her death, school officials continued to invoke her name and her role as founder of the school.  The Manassas Industrial School became a regional high school for Black students in 1938. It closed its doors in 1959. The following year it was replaced by Jennie Dean High School. Jennie Dean has long been a source of pride among African Americans in Northern Virginia. She has had a playground, a community center, and an elementary school named in her honor. In 1995, the Manassas Industrial School and Jennie Dean Memorial became part of the Manassas Museum System. They were dedicated at the former school’s site, which is part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Grades 11+

Dean was born into slavery in Loudoun County on April 15, 1848, and was the daughter of Charles Dean and Annie Stewart Dean. Having secured her freedom as a consequence of the American Civil War (1861–1865), she attended schools in Fairfax County and in Washington, D.C. Dean worked as a domestic servant to help her family purchase a farm in Prince William County after her father’s death and to pay for one of her sisters’ schooling. She attended Sunday school at the First Congregational Church in Washington and later joined the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church there.  She never married.

Dean began a lifetime of missionary work and dedication to racial uplift when she founded a Sunday school in Prince William County about 1878. She established additional Sunday schools in the area, several of which became congregations, including Calvary Chapel (later Greater Mount Calvary Christian Church). Dean raised money locally and in northern cities for construction of church buildings. She offered classes in cooking and sewing and as an outgrowth of her ongoing missionary work began to plan for a school that would teach skilled trades to young African Americans. With the assistance of her sister, a public school teacher, and a white teacher from the county, in 1888 Dean began to organize local support for her idea among Black and white residents, including ministers. Dean and her group chose the site for the school, a farm located a mile from Manassas on the Southern Railway.

National American Woman Suffrage Association

Three years later Dean traveled north to raise funds. She worked in domestic service in Boston and spoke at churches and other venues about her plans for the school. Dignified, sincere, direct, and tenacious, she successfully generated contributions from local residents and northern philanthropists. Early in 1893 Orra Gray Langhorne, of Lynchburg, arranged for Dean to make a presentation about the school at the annual meeting of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, held in Washington, D.C. There Dean met Emily Howland, a New Yorker whose donation paid the balance on the farm and provided funds for buildings.

Dean’s years of praying and planning came to fruition when the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth received its charter in October 1893. A dedication ceremony for the school’s first building, Howland Hall, took place on September 3, 1894, and featured Frederick Douglass as the keynote speaker. The school welcomed its first students in October. Reflecting Dean’s vision, the school aimed to provide education and training that would lead to employment. In addition to liberal arts courses, the school offered training in such occupations as dressmaking, child care, blacksmithing, cooking, carpentry, shoemaking, and farming. The school suffered two significant fires in 1895 and in 1900 that destroyed its first buildings.

Campus View

For many years Dean served on the school’s board of directors and executive committee, with the title of financial agent. Tireless in this role, she traveled to Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and the school’s neighboring towns to promote her institution, raise funds, and serve as an advocate for industrial schools in general. Dean preferred being at the school itself, where she served for a time as matron and wrote a code of good conduct. As a delegate to the 1896 annual convention of the National Federation of Afro-American Women (later the National Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs), she spoke about her work at Manassas and urged the organization to get involved in establishing similar industrial schools.

After 1907 Dean’s influence within the school’s governing board waned and her health deteriorated. Nevertheless, the significance of her career was underscored when she accompanied a group of the Manassas Industrial School’s students and other faculty members to meet Theodore Roosevelt at the White House on February 14, 1906. The meeting was arranged by Booker T. Washington, to whom Roosevelt favorably compared Dean. Sharing Washington’s belief in vocational education and hard work, she encouraged African American men and women to focus on becoming proficient in a trade, earning a living, becoming landowners, and paying taxes before they objected to insufficient opportunities or became involved with politics.

Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth and Jennie Dean Memorial

After several years of ill health and two strokes, Dean died of a cerebral hemorrhage at her home near Haymarket on May 3, 1913. She was buried in the Mount Calvary Baptist Church Cemetery. After her death, school officials continued to invoke her name and her role as founder of the school, which became a regional high school for Black students in 1938 but closed its doors in 1959, to be replaced by Jennie Dean High School the following year. Long a source of pride among African Americans in Northern Virginia, Dean has had a playground, a community center, and an elementary school named in her honor. The Manassas Industrial School and Jennie Dean Memorial, part of the Manassas Museum System, was dedicated in 1995 at the former school’s site, which had been added to the National Register of Historic Places the previous year.

MAP
TIMELINE
April 15, 1848
Jennie Serepta Dean is born into slavery in Loudoun County. She is the daughter of Charles Dean and Annie Stewart Dean.
ca. 1878
Jennie Serepta Dean founds a Sunday school in Prince William County.
1888
Jennie Serepta Dean begins to organize local support for a school that would teach skilled trades to young African Americans.
January 1893
Jennie Serepta Dean makes a presentation at the annual meeting of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, held in Washington D.C. The presentation is about Dean's plans for a school that would teach skilled trades to young African Americans. Dean secures a significant donation for the school from Emily Howland.
October 1893
The Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth receives its charter.
September 3, 1894
Frederick Douglass is the keynote speaker at a dedication ceremony for Howland Hall, the first building of the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth.
1895
A fire at the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth causes significant damage.
1896
Jennie Serepta Dean attends the annual convention of the National Federation of Afro-American Women (later the National Federation of Colored Women's Clubs) to speak about her work at the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth and to urge others to establish similar schools.
1900
Buildings at the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth are damaged by fire.
February 14, 1906
Jennie Serepta Dean accompanies a group of the Manassas Industrial School's students and other faculty members to meet Theodore Roosevelt at the White House.
1907
Jennie Serepta Dean's influence within the governing board of the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth wanes, and her health deteriorates.
May 3, 1913
Jennie Serepta Dean dies of a cerebral hemorrhage at her home near Haymarket. She is buried in the Mount Calvary Baptist Church Cemetery.
1938
The Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth becomes a regional high school for black students.
1959
The Manassas Industrial School closes, but is replaced the following year by Jennie Dean High School.
1995
The Manassas Industrial School and Jennie Dean Memorial are dedicated at the former school's site.
FURTHER READING
  • Kierner, Cynthia A., Jennifer R. Loux, and Megan Taylor Shockley. Changing History: Virginia Women Through Four Centuries. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2013.
  • Lewis, Stephen Johnson. Undaunted Faith: The Life Story of Jennie Dean, Missionary, Teacher, Crusader, Builder, Founder of the Manassas Industrial School. 1994 ed. Manassas, Virginia: The Manassas Museum, 1942.
CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
van Zelm, Antoinette & Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Jennie Serepta Dean (1848–1913). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/dean-jennie-serepta-1848-1913.
MLA Citation:
van Zelm, Antoinette, and Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Jennie Serepta Dean (1848–1913)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 17 Jul. 2024
Last updated: 2023, April 06
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