top of page
Murray-Massenburg Elementary School
Trailblazing Educator - Trailblazing Business Owner - Author - Motivational Speaker - Poet -
Betty Doretha Harris Massenburg was the first African-American woman to serve as principal for Durham City School System. In 1975, as the only woman with a principal's certificate, Mrs. Massenburg was asked to serve as principal for Holloway Street Elementary School. While she had not seen another woman of color in the position of principal, she realized all the reading, writing, training, education, and earned certifications over the course of her lifetime had brought her to the point of readiness.
She was a lover of reading and learning, and while her husband was away in France and Hawaii serving in the military, Mrs. Massenburg attended Fayetteville State University and earned a bachelor's degree in May of 1946. Her first year out of college, she accepted a teaching position at White Pine School in Franklin County School, the school she had attended in the first grade. As the sole teacher and administrator for the entire school, Mrs. Massenburg developed the entire infrastructure and delivered instruction for the entire curriculum. "This is when you begin to learn that you have to be creative and discover your own methods and organization in the teaching profession", writes Mrs. Massenburg in her autobiography "Betty - From Roots to the Top".
In 1956, Mrs. Massenburg and her family moved to Durham, North Carolina; she had worked 10 years across four schools in Franklin County. Over the next 20 years, she continued to nurture her love for reading, teaching, and learning. A few of her accomplishments include:
1960 - Received a Master's of Education Degree from North Carolina Central University
1961 - Attended Demonstration School in Bethesda, Maryland
1962 - Facilitated Leadership in Reading training at North Carolina Central University
1964 - Facilitated Reading Methods training at Appalachian State University
1968 - Attended NDEA History Institute at NC A&T State University
1970 - Received Language Arts and Social Studies Certification from Shaw University
1972 - Attended the Study of Africa and the Black Experience and History hosted by Durham City Schools
1972 - Attended the School Organization and Administration hosted by Duke University
1974 - Received Supervisory Certification from Duke University
1974 - Served as Supervisor in the Education Department for North Carolina Central University
1975 - Received Principal Certification from North Carolina Central University
1976 - Attended the International Reading Association to observe teachers and curricula in action in four junior high schools, and the University of UCLA in Los Angeles, California
Mrs. Massenburg taught in Durham City School System at Crest Street and Fayetteville Street Elementary Schools. She was a teacher, Dean of Girls and Assistant Principal at Rogers Herr Middle School, and Principal at Holloway Street Elementary School. She believed that "Education is that experience that prepares every child for life and enables him or her to receive the best. It provides the child a chance to work to the height of his or her potential."
Mrs. Massenburg accepted the principalship position as a challenge and a chance to help with the continuing task of educating the boys and girls in the Durham community and working cooperatively with the parents. She believed that "We don't have problem children, we have children with problems. This is not new, we all have problems, so let's get to work and seek the solution." Key words that guided her work were: 1) organization, 2) relationships, 3) techniques, 4) innovation, and 5) cooperative planning.
Mrs. Massenburg received numerous honors, awards, and fellowships, and was a public speaker for both small and large audiences and was a member of Union Baptist Church. She is best remembered, however, for strategies intended to stimulate learning among young people. Her generational impact on students and educators is felt and continues to be expressed beyond her transition in 2007. Mrs. Massenburg was a trailblazer for educating youth and is affectionately admired by her family, friends, students and educators.
bottom of page