My Contribution: I was an outstanding student at Harrisburg’s Central High School and the first woman of color to attend Dickin- son College, graduating with high honors. I published my first vol- ume of poetry while still in high school and became a well-regarded poet, writer, and speaker for social justice. I was a life-long advocate for educational equity for Black women.
My Legacy: I left a rich legacy as a teacher, educator, poet, and writer in African American literary communities. My poetry responding to lynching is still widely read today while my other writings, both before and after my involvement in the Harlem Renaissance, receive attention in classrooms today. I am memorialized by the Dickinson College Archives, where my 1919 diary is available for reading.
Full Name: Esther B. Popel; Esther Popel Shaw
Birth Date: July 16, 1896
Death Date: January 25, 1958
Place of Birth: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Race: Black (1900 and 1910 Federal Censuses), “Mulatto” (1920 Federal Census)
Places of Residence: 703 State Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C.
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: Resident during childhood; involved in organizations and schools that centered in the Eighth Ward
Family Members: Father: Joseph Gibbs Popel. Mother: Helen King Anderson Popel. Siblings: Helen Popel, Samuel Popel. Husband: William Howard Shaw, m. April 11, 1925-death in 1946. Daughter: Esther Patricia Shaw
Education: Harrisburg Central High School, 1915; Dickinson College, 1919; Columbia University, graduate work
Occupations: War Risk Insurance Department employee. Junior High school teacher in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. for four decades (French, Spanish, English, pen- manship, algebra). Playwright. Poet. Speaker in the nation’s capital on the theme of race relations; Negro History Bulletin editorial board member. Book critic. Ex-officio consultant to Educational Policies Commission
Church Membership: Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church
Activism: Loyal Temperance Legion; Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church; Phi Beta Kappa National Honors Society; Delta Sigma Theta sorority (chair of Vigilance Committee); Washington, D.C. Southeast Settlement House for African Americans (board member); College Alumnae Group (member, vice-presi- dent, president); National Association of College Women (charter member, secretary, and constitutional chair, Washington liaison, representative for disarmament petitions).
Connections: Joseph Popel (father), Gwendolyn Bennett, Rosabelle Quann, Jessie Matthews, and W. Arthur Carter