idler's club

“Alberta Virginia Scott, a resident of Cambridgeport, was the first African American graduate of Radcliffe College.

Alberta was born near Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of Smith and Fanny Bunch Scott. When she was six years old, her family moved to Cambridge, where they lived in several locations in the "lower Port,” a traditionally black neighborhood near Kendall Square that has been replaced with office buildings. Her father, a boiler tender and stationary engineer, was a deacon at the Union Baptist Church on Main Street As a child, Scott devoted herself to intensive study. From the time she entered elementary school, it was said that she had a studious disposition. At Union Baptist, she taught Sunday school under the guidance of her friend Charlotte Hawkins.

Scott graduated with distinction from the Cambridge Latin School in 1894 and entered Radcliffe College, where she studied science and the classics and belonged to the Idler and German clubs. Radcliffe had no dormitories at that time, so during her first two years there she lived with an African American family on Parker Street. In her senior year, she lived at home at 28 Union Street. When she finished college in 1898, she was only the fourth African American to graduate from a women’s college in Massachusetts.

Scott decided that it was her duty to teach African American children in the South rather than stay in Massachusetts. At first she taught in an Indianapolis high school, but in 1900 Booker T. Washington recruited her to teach at the Tuskegee Institute. Scott’s promising future was tragically cut short. After a year in Alabama, she fell sick and returned to Cambridge, where she died at her parents’ home at 37 Hubbard Avenue on August 30, 1902. Charlotte Hawkins sang at her funeral. which was conducted by the Reverend Jesse Harrell of the Union Baptist Church.“

Portrait: Ca. 1898.