Effie Stroud Frazier ’31
“I had two majors: English and education. I had planned to be an English teacher, for which I was qualified. All my marks were very high in English. Not only was I not allowed to do the practice teaching. I was even prevented from going into a classroom and observing a lesson being taught. My being prevented from taking practice teaching also prevented me from having a decent retirement income.”— Effie Stroud Frazier
The fourth Stroud sibling, and two years younger than her brother Dolphus, Effie was a top scholar in her own right. From a young age, she helped support herself and her family, working as a maid in a boardinghouse.
Regularly at the top of her class in elementary, middle, and high school, she won awards in elocution and city- and state-wide prizes for her work in chemistry, including second-place from the American Chemical Society. Her high school grade in chemistry was an AA-plus, likely the first-ever given at Colorado Springs High School, now William J. Palmer High School.
Even with her academic promise and potential, Stroud was subjected to great racial abuse and the systemic oppression toward people of color. When she received her high school diploma, nobody marched alongside her — she was completely alone.
In the fall of 1927, Stroud began at Colorado College — able to attend due to the Sachs Foundation, which provided for her tuition from semester to semester, as long as she kept her grades up. Henry Sachs, a local businessman and entrepreneur, noticed Stroud’s potential in high school, and told her that if she kept her grades up and worked to support herself, he’d pay her tuition.
Stroud graduated with a B.A. in English from CC in 1931, only the third black woman to do so. She finished less than one GPA percentage point below cum laude status, and — despite this disappointment — looked forward to a shining future. She wanted to teach, to offer opportunities to students like herself.
However, no teaching jobs came. Despite a degree and a teaching certificate, Stroud only found work cleaning the college president’s house. Once again, Henry Sachs stepped in, funding her second bachelor’s degree at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), this time in library science — a relatively new field at the time. Putting her degree to use, Stroud moved to New York City and worked at the 135th Street Branch Library in Harlem, meeting and collaborating with black artists, writers, and Harlem community members including W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Claude McKay.
She served the New York public school system as a teacher of librarianship, and eventually became the supervisor for all public school libraries across the entire city. Beyond her teaching and librarianship, Stroud was a community activist who chaired the cleanup project of a six-block mall area in Riverdale-on-Hudson — work that earned her first place in the “Citizens of New York” awards for her efforts to beautify a public place.
Stroud retired from her library duties in 1973, and returned to Colorado Springs in 1978, where some of her family still remained. She continued to volunteer as a librarian for the First Presbyterian Church until her death in 1994.
Recollections by Juanita Martin, niece of Effie Stroud
When I accompanied Effie to her 50th year reunion of her Colorado College class, she was just as emotionally distraught and resentful as she must have been when denied election to Phi Beta Kappa 50 years earlier. Her grades warranted the election; however, a white male classmate told her that the committee spent many hours trying to find justification for her denial. They finally arrived at the spurious reason that Effie had not been a member of any extra-curricular groups, most of which systematically denied Black students. From John Holley's book, The Invisible People of the Pikes Peak Region: "Although Effie and Dolphus were both top scholars at CC, graduating cum laude, they felt isolated from the other students as they were excluded from most extracurricular activities. Effie could not participate in physical education because CC students went to the Broadmoor Hotel for swimming and horseback riding and black people were not allowed to swim in the Broadmoor pool. Effie was enrolled in a teaching course but was not permitted to do observation or practice teaching in the local schools, as they were still denying appointment to black teachers."
Effie was near tears at her reunion and appeared still to want the decision reversed. In contrast to Dolphus, Effie did not seem to have enjoyed her experiences at Colorado College and was bitter, rather than transcendent. Because of her special abilities and talents, she expected more and never made peace with the past. It is no wonder. The Holley book reads: "A high achiever who always studied diligently, Effie Stroud was at the top of her class in her junior year and sixth or seventh in her senior year. She won an award in elocution and wrote an essay on chemistry during her senior year which won first place in Colorado Springs and second place in the state in a contest sponsored by the American Chemical Society. Her grade in chemistry was AA-plus, probably the first time that grade was ever given at Colorado Springs High School.
Nevertheless, Effie was still subjected to the racial caste system. When she marched onto the stage at the new City Auditorium in 1927 to receive her diploma, nobody marched beside her. She and several other students received scholarships to The Colorado College but they were only for $50, which was far less than the cost of tuition even in 1927. The Sachs Foundation Scholarship arose from Effie's experience and supported her college education. This may have assuaged the pain of racism somewhat for Effie for a time; however, she left Colorado Springs for many years because of the indignities she suffered here. She went on to many accomplishments and a successful career as a chief librarian and teacher in New York.
I strongly encourage you to purchase and read John Holley's book, which contains a wealth of information about many local families as well as the Strouds. Artifacts may be available at Pioneers Museum. It is unfortunate that most Black people must see their live through the prism of racism, but such is the life to which we are subjected.