Imagine begging, pleading, and crying for the opportunity to go to school. Although the idea of school may not sound exciting to you, it was young Anna Knight’s dream. Eight-year-old Anna spent her days helping on the family farm. She fed the chickens, fetched water, and weeded the garden. But Anna wanted more. It had been 20 years since slaves had been set free, but Black children were still not allowed to attend school with White children, and there weren’t many schools for Black children.
Anna developed a plan where she worked for free for some White neighbors nearby. Instead of paying her money they taught her to read and write. At home, she practiced writing on the hearth with her fingers or a small stick. Within a few years she had educated herself as if she had attended elementary school.
Anna could read, but had no books. She wrote to a magazine requesting reading materials. Someone sent her Seventh-day Adventist magazines. As she read these, she discovered Jesus loved her and had a purpose for her life. She began to keep the seventh-day Sabbath, which made Anna’s mother angry. Her mother demanded that Anna choose to either leave her faith or her family. Although sad, Anna decided to leave home.
Friends helped her find a place to live in Tennessee. She was baptized there and received the spiritual support she needed. These same friends helped her continue her education by sending her to Mount Vernon Academy in Ohio. After that, Anna went to the Battle Creek School of Nursing in Michigan.
Anna never forgot her struggle to get an education. After graduation she went back to Mississippi and opened a school for poor children. Her family had softened in their feelings for Anna and supported her school. Anna earned one dollar a week as a teacher.
At the age of 27, she heard of the great need for missionary teachers. She decided to go as a missionary to India. When she did, Anna became the first black woman missionary sent to India from America.
After working for several years in India, she returned to her school in Mississippi. As time passed, she moved on to begin and support other schools. Among her many achievements, Anna founded the National Colored Teachers Association. She also was awarded the Medallion of Merit Award in 1972.
Anna lived to be 98 years old. I am sure that if she were alive today, she would say that getting a good education is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for a happy and useful life.
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