Although Drumright teacher Emma Akin touched the lives of countless school children throughout the country, many Oklahomans have probably never heard of her trail blazing efforts to enhance the education of African American students in segregated schools. State Sen. James Leewright sought to raise awareness of the educator’s life and achievements recently when he welcomed a delegation of Drumright constituents to the State Senate to help honor Akin.
Emma Akin was born in 1887 in Indian Territory. While she was not African American, in 1930 her teaching career brought her to the segregated Dunbar School in Drumright where she was placed in charge.
At the time, there were no text books available that included positive depictions of the lives of African Americans or their contributions to this country. Emma set about researching African American history, and she traveled to segregated schools throughout the south, meeting with black educators, including George Washington Carver. Ultimately she created a four book collection of textbooks called the Negro American Series. Akin included depictions of faculty, students and families of the Dunbar school in her books, which were ultimately used in black schools throughout the south until the schools were integrated.
“Although Emma passed away in 1975, she left an incredible legacy in many ways for Drumright and for the countless students in Oklahoma and throughout the country whose lives she touched through her work as an author and educator,” said Leewright, R-Bristow.
Akin retired from teaching in 1952, but stayed active in the community. She worked to create a museum at the old Santa Fe Depot and became the first president of the Drumright Historical Society. She also promoted the arts through a festival she helped establish, and wrote and published many articles, poems and stories.
In February, Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive proclamation honoring Akin. State Rep. Dennis Casey hopes such recognition will help more Oklahomans learn about the life and work of the Drumright educator.
“Emma Akin realized the importance of giving these students positive images—images that would inspire and fuel a desire to learn and succeed,” said Casey, R-Morrison. “She provided that inspiration, not only for the children at Dunbar School, but throughout the country. It shows what a profound impact one person can have. She was a remarkable teacher, and a remarkable Oklahoman.”