To much of the outside world, the two women
living in the Victorian-style house perched on a hill in the nation’s capital
were lifelong companions who remained single to focus on their careers.
For about 15 years, they lived together at
1256 Kearny St. NE — a home still standing in the Brookland neighborhood — as
leading figures in black Washington society in the 1920s and 1930s.
Lucy Diggs Slowe was, among other firsts,
the first dean of women at Howard University, the first principal of the first
black junior high school in Washington and a founder of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the
first sorority established by African American women. Her roommate, Mary
Burrill, was an English teacher and a playwright well respected by writers of
the Harlem Renaissance.
Now, more than 80 years after Slowe’s
death, historians and relatives have begun to acknowledge an entirely different
legacy these two women left behind.