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Pioneering local educator honored with city square


Recognizing Bessie Bruington Burke

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s first Black teacher and principal has been honored with a sign in her namesake designating the intersection outside the school where her career began.

Bessie Bruington Burke received her teaching credential in 1911 and began teaching at Holmes Avenue Elementary School, just west of the Los Angeles-Vernon border. She was promoted to principal in 1918.

Burke became the first Black principal of a racially integrated school in the district in 1938 when she became principal of Nevin Avenue Elementary School, also just west of the Los Angeles-Vernon border, according to Councilman Curren Price, who introduced the motion designating the intersection of 52nd Street and Holmes Avenue as Bessie Burke Square.

Price and LAUSD Board of Education President Jackie Goldberg spoke at the 10 a.m. ceremony which coincided with the final day of Black History Month.

Born on March 19, 1891, Burke was raised in what is today the North Hollywood area where she attended Berendo Elementary School and Polytechnic High School. She attended Los Angeles State Normal School which later became UCLA.

Burke was active in serving with the YWCA, NAACP, and Native California Club, working to advance the rights and representation of people of color and women, Price said.

Burke retired from the LAUSD in 1955 and died in 1968.