Dorothy Allen Conley – African-American Educational Leader

Dorothy Allen Conley (1904-1989)

Jersey gem: Career spent in Berlin

Dorothy Allen Conley began her teaching career at Berlin Community School, a segregated two-room building for kindergarten through eighth graders. As an African-American educator, Conley spoke out on issues related to desegregation at various churches and parent-teacher organizations in the state. She became a leader in Albion United African Methodist Episcopal Church and used her new role as a platform from which to publically discuss race relations in the nation.

By 1941, Conley was working for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as part of the Camden County Executive Board. She was appointed president of the Camden County Inter-Cultural Council and presided over the South Jersey branch of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History.

While a graduate student at Rutgers University, Conley engaged in extensive research about the meaning of African-American spirituals. At the encouragement of professors and colleagues, she published a script in 1968 that explained her findings and later became a popular collector’s item within the African-American and academic communities.

Conley retired in 1964 after an impressive 38 years of teaching. She almost immediately began work on a pilot program for pregnant and unmarried teens. During her retirement years, Conley also founded Conlam Enterprises which promotes the distribution of records and poems on the African-American experience. She has received awards from the NAACP, New Jersey State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History and the Association of Business and Professional Women of Camden and Vicinity. Conley had the honor of witnessing President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 official declaration of Black History Month, a project that she had helped to develop over the years.

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