Honoring Colorado’s Black History: Marie L. Greenwood

Throughout Black History Month and beyond, we at Visible Network Labs are honoring and remembering Black Coloradans who have worked for equality, human rights, and created a greater society for us all.

Excelling From the Beginning

Marie Louise Greenwood was born on November 12th, 1912 in Los Angeles, California. At around 13 years of age, Mrs. Greenwood and her family moved from Arizona to Denver, where she enrolled in what is now known as Morey Middle School. As Mrs. Greenwood transitioned into Denver’s East High School, an academic advisor tried to dissuade her from pursuing higher education even though she ranked third in her class of 357 students. Her family quickly moved to the area of Denver’s West High School to continue her studies, where her dedication earned her the National Merit Scholarship.  “It never dawned on me that I was a different color because my father had always taught me I was as good as anybody else and if I worked hard enough I could be better,” she told CPR in a 2017 interview. “And I had that attitude even though I ran into this discrimination.”

Determination

Mrs. Greenwood continued on to the Colorado State College of Education, now named University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. Due to the racist policies of the time, Mrs. Greenwood was not permitted to live on campus or be a member of any student committees or organizations. Nonetheless, she excelled. Her pastor encouraged her to take the Colorado State Teachers Examination, which she passed. Shortly after she graduated college in 1935, she accepted an offer to become a first-grade teacher at Whittier Elementary School in Denver. By 1938, Mrs. Greenwood became the first Black teacher to gain tenured status in the entire state.

Caring for Children and Their Development

Mrs. Greenwood and her husband, Bill Greenwood, had four children. In 1945, she took time away from teaching to raise her family. As her children Richard, Louise, Bill, and Jim reached school age, they became the first Black students enrolled at Denver’s Newlon Elementary School, previously an all-white school. There, she began teaching again, first as a substitute, and within two years she resumed her duties as a full-time teacher. She broke down many barriers, and proved those wrong who believed that Black teachers were somehow unable to teach their children. Mrs. Greenwood went on to educate, care for, and empower Denver students for decades.

A Life of Service, Well-Lived

In 2001, Marie L. Greenwood Academy (now known as Marie L. Greenwood Early – 8th) was named in her honor, as was an educational non-profit organization, Friends of Marie L. Greenwood, in the interest of helping students at the school. Mrs. Greenwood received two honorary doctorate degrees, from the University of Northern Colorado and Denver Urban Studies and Adult College. She was awarded the 2010 Martin Luther King Trailblazer Award and published two books, 2007’s Every Child Can Learn and her 2013 autobiography, By the Grace of God.

From Mrs. Greenwood’s birth to her passing at the age of 106 in 2019, she served, and continues to serve as pillar of inspiration and a beacon of hope to all of us who envision a better future. She achieved and overcame while displaying a true love for life, children, and her community even when faced with adversity, racism, and discrimination. She dedicated her life to helping make the City of Denver and the State of Colorado a better place for all of us. We at Visible Network Labs are proud to honor her and we truly appreciate her contributions.

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About the Author: Will Jacobson

Will Jacobson is the Business Development Specialist on VNL’s Marketing and Communications Team. Originally from New York City, Will loves living in Colorado and all the outdoor life it has to offer. He’s also a pretty big foodie!

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