Josephine Silone Yates (1852 -1912) who was trained in chemistry, was one of the first Black teachers hired at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO. Her promotion to head the university’s science department may have made her the first Black woman to hold a full professorship at any U.S. college or university.
Yates was also significant in the African-American women’s club movement. She was a correspondent for the Woman’s Era, the first monthly magazine published by Black women in the United States, and wrote for other magazines as well. Yates was instrumental in establishing women’s clubs for African-American women: she was the first president of the Women’s League of Kansas City (1893) and the second president of the City’s chapter of the National Association of Colored Women (1900–04).
Josephine Silone was raised up and down the East coast of the United States. She attended the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia and then Rogers High School in Newport, RI. She was the first Black student to graduate from Rogers High School and graduated as valedictorian of her class.
After High School, she attended Rhode Island State Normal School to become a teacher. Again she was the only Black student and became the first African American certified to teach in Rhode Island schools. She alter received a master’s degree from National University of Illinois.
Josephine was one of the first Black teachers hired at Lincoln University. Josephine Silone was one of the first black teachers hired at Lincoln University. In 1889, she married William Ward Yates. Many schools prohibited married women from teaching, and upon her marriage, Josephine gave up her teaching position and moved to Kansas City, MO, where her husband was the principal of Phillips School.
In Kansas City, Josephine became active in the African-American women’s club movement. She was a correspondent for the Woman’s Era (the first monthly magazine published by Black women in the United States), and also wrote for the Southern Workman, The Voice of the Negro, the Indianapolis Freeman, and the Kansas City Rising Son. She helped to found the Women’s League of Kansas City, an organization for the self-help and social betterment for African-American women, and became its first president in 1893. In 1896 the Women’s League joined the National Association of Colored Women, a federation of similar clubs from around the country. She served as the NACW president from 1901 to 1904.
In 1902, she was recalled by the president of Lincoln Institute to serve as the head of the department of English and history. In 1908 she requested to resign due to illness, but the Board of Regents did not accept, and she stayed on as the advisor to women at Lincoln. Her husband died in 1910, after which Josephine chose to return to Kansas City. She died in 1912 after a short illness.