Nashville activist, scholar and author Tommie Morton-Young received the Distinguished Alumna Award from Peabody College of education and human development during Commencement ceremonies May 14.
Morton-Young earned her master of arts degree in library science in 1955, becoming the first African American to graduate from George Peabody College for Teachers, as it was then named. The Nashville native attended public schools and earned her undergraduate degree cum laude from Tennessee State University. After receiving her master’s degree from Peabody, she went on to earn a Ph.D. from Duke University.
During her career she has held many positions in government and higher education.
She served as a researcher for the U.S. Navy Library in Washington, D.C., and did transliteration in Russian for the Library of Congress. She taught at several universities, including Atlanta University, Tennessee State University, the University of Wisconsin, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Central University, and North Carolina A&T State University.
As a librarian and professor of education, Morton-Young pursued innovative concepts and passions. Her “toybrary” concept was hailed in the library and child development professions. At North Carolina Central University, she organized a learning laboratory that demonstrated her theories on using toys to teach.
While at North Carolina A&T, she received grants that allowed her to develop expertise in genealogy, which she has shared widely. She organized the North Carolina Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society as well as the Tennessee African American Genealogical and Historical Society.
As a community activist, Morton-Young has advocated for women, minorities and the disadvantaged. She is a former chairperson of the North Carolina Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The author of 10 books, Morton-Young currently writes, serves as a consultant, and owns and operates Authentic Tours: Teaching through Tourism.
“Tommie Morton-Young made a signal contribution to the history of Peabody in 1955,” says Camilla P. Benbow, Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development at Peabody. “But more important, she has used her education to strengthen the lives of children, families and communities, especially those who too often are marginalized.”
Morton-Young delivered graduation remarks as part of Peabody’s diploma awards ceremony for students receiving master’s and doctoral degrees in education. “The college has a distinguished history and reputation, and as the first African American to graduate from the institution many years ago, I am pleased to name it among my alma maters,” she said.