Reminiscing Omaha’s First Black Woman Principal
By Sheritha Jones
Edmae Swain started her first day as the first Black woman principal in the Omaha Public Schools on Sept. 8, 1964.
Her career in education started as a teacher in northeast Omaha’s Long and Howard Kennedy Schools in 1947.
Omaha Public Schools Superintendent Harry Burke appointed Swain principal at Lake Elementary School in North Omaha in 1964. Lake was one of Omaha’s four Black schools at the time, and by 1965 it was a completely segregated school.
In 1969 then-Superintendent Owen Knutzenan asked Swain if she would transfer and she agreed, making her the first Black principal assigned to a school outside the North Omaha area. Her new assignment was principal of Jackson Elementary, at 31st Street and St. Mary’s Avenue — a White school.
“I feel we need whites in the all-Black areas because if they’re going to be well-rounded teachers, they need experience from all sides,” Swain said. “It’s helpful to the teachers and helpful to the children.
“Education shouldn’t have any color lines.” Swain retired in 1977.
Let’s reminisce on Edmae Swain’s invaluable contributions to the OPS district.
Photo Source: Rudy Smith, The World-Herald