CELEBRATING SEATTLE BLACK WOMEN
Daisy Tibbs Dawson, Peace Activist and Educator
Special Collections celebrates Daisy Lee Tibbs Dawson (1924-2013) with an exhibit about her life and legacy as activist, teacher, director of Seattle’s Head Start Program, and church leader. Daisy was a 1948 UW graduate and a member of the first “Houses for Hiroshima” work team in post-WWII Japan. The project garnered local and international attention, and Ebony magazine sent a journalist to write a feature of Daisy Tibbs’ involvement. The magazine issue, photos, and artifacts from her life are on display in the UW Libraries mezzanine exhibit from February 15 through March 31, 2023. Free and open to the public.
Daisy Lee Tibbs Dawson (1924-2013) was a peace activist and educator and the only African American to be memorialized in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. She was born on July 24, 1924 in Toney, Alabama to Calvin and Martha Tibbs, the ninth of eleven children. Both her parents died by the time Daisy was seven years old, whereby she and her two full siblings moved in with a maternal uncle and his wife. Daisy worked throughout her time at Trinity High School, a private Black high school established by white Presbyterian missionaries.
Daisy and unidentified women in formal seting and in front of Suzzallo Library during her college years 1944-1948.
In 1950 Daisy Tibbs returned to Seattle where she married Leonard Dawson and started a family. In 1965 she volunteered with Head Start, a pre-school program providing comprehensive services for economically and culturally disadvantaged children, and was soon hired on as an assistant teacher at Colman Elementary School. Dawson worked her way up, eventually becoming the director of the Seattle Public Schools Head Start Program in 1971.
She also served as president of the A & S League of the Principals Association of Seattle Public Schools, Sunday School Superintendent of Madrona Presbyterian Church, and was also a member of the National Council of Negro Women and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She acquired a Master of Arts and Education from Seattle University in 1982 before retiring in 1984.
The Daisy Tibbs Dawson papers Include photographs, scrapbooks, newsclippings, plaques, correspondence, and other documents associated with Homes for Hiroshima, the Head Start Program, and the Delta Theta Sigma Sorority. The collection was donated to Special Collections by her family in 2017. The finding aid describing the materials in the collection is available in the Archives West online finding aid database.
Two albums are digitized and available online.
Daisy childhood portrait. Date unknown.
Daisy on skis during her college years 1944-1948.
In the summer of 1949, Floyd Schmoe, Reverend Emery Andrews, Ruth Jenkins, and Daisy Tibbs traveled to Japan as part of the first “Houses for Hiroshima” work team. Working with local Japanese students and volunteers, the group constructed four houses and a garden. The unusual project garnered local and international attention, and Ebony magazine sent a journalist to write a feature of Daisy Tibbs’ involvement. She kept a scrapbook or mementos and photographs to document her time in Japan. View the digitized album.
A page from Daisy's album. Mimeographed list of members of the work camp at Hiroshima, August 1949.
Daisy Tibbs Dawson. Director of the Seattle Public Schools Head Start Program 1971-1984
In 1944 Daisy Tibbs moved to Memphis and then Seattle with her mentors, Mr. and Mrs. J.T. Wright. She attended the University of Washington as one of only sixty-five Black students and graduated in 1948 with a Bachelor of Science in Home Economics.
Ebony Magazine, January 1950 featured Daisy Tibbs's summer 1949 experience volunterring in Japan with Houses for Hiroshima. Photos of Daisy below were made by the Ebony journalist.
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