What does it mean for a woman to be “empowered”? How have women in Dayton made an impact? These are questions that Children’s Historical Publishing has been focusing on over the past year. The answers to these questions are answered as we examine the history of our city. In almost every instance, a woman has stood at the head of the table, leading efforts to improve not just their own lives, but the lives of those in the community. The woman we are featuring in this post epitomizes that kind of leadership.
Dr. Margaret Peters began her career as an educator. She earned multiple degrees from the University of Dayton, and in 1963 began teaching at Roth High School. Though she could teach English, Spanish, and Social Studies, she focused her teaching on reading because so many of her students were reading below their grade level and some could not read at all. Soon, she and another teacher began to advocate for the inclusion of African American history to be part of the curriculum at Dayton Public Schools. Their efforts led to a citywide meeting to discuss the importance of having Black history within the curriculum.
It was at this meeting that Dr. Peters’ impact on the city of Dayton was revealed. The keynote speaker planned for the event was Dr. Charles Wesley, one of the foremost historians on African American life in America and the President of Central State University. However, he was ill and could not attend, so Dr. Peters spoke instead. This was a tremendous opportunity, and Dr. Peters met the obligation head on. Her speech and knowledge about Black history on that day led to her appointment as the Negro History Resource Teacher for Dayton Public Schools. But that was just the beginning of her work as a historian and author.
By 1969, Dr. Peters wrote a pamphlet for the Dayton Public Schools, Striving to Overcome: Negro Achievers. She was also a regular contributor for the Dayton Daily News and the African American newspaper, the Dayton Weekly News. Much of her early writings included biographies and were eventually compiled into her 1970 Ebony Book of Black Achievement, which was her first published work. In 1995, she published Dayton’s African American Heritage, which is a monumental contribution for Dayton history. In 2001, she co-authored A History of Race Relations in the Miami Valley.
Dr. Peters continued to teach in the community and coordinated an after-school tutorial program at Zion Baptist Church, where she served as the church school superintendent. She also served the community by serving as President of the Dayton chapter of ASALH, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. She was also elected to the National Executive Council for ASALH.
Dr. Peters has been recognized and honored for her contributions over the years. She is the recipient of various regional and national educational excellence awards, including the Excellence in Teaching Awards for the Midwest Region from the National Conference of Negro Women. She has also been honored locally, receiving Dayton’s Top Ten Women Award and a block on Dayton’s Wright-Dunbar Walk of Fame.
Dr. Peters’ historical works are hugely significant to the local community. At a time when race relations were minimal and sometimes non-existent, she sought to bring to light the stories of African Americans in the community. Her contributions are critical to the knowledge of Black heritage in Dayton, Ohio. We honor her work as an educator and historian, dedication to providing opportunities for young people, and leadership in the community as one of the most significant contemporary women in Dayton today.