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Born free in the era of slavery, Lucy Craft Laney learned to read and established her own school The museum preserves the history of her life and her efforts to improve the lives of African Americans through education.


  • A portrait of Lucy Craft Laney
  • The Lucy Craft Laney Museum

Lucy Craft Laney was born in Macon, Georgia on April 13, 1854. Her father had been able to purchase his own freedom and that of his family, so Laney was born free but still faced all of the dangers and discrimination that black women experiences throughout the 19th century. Even though law forbid African Americans from learning to read, Laney learned to read at a young age. At the age of 15, Laney attended Atlanta University--one of the first 16 students to attend the institution. After graduating in 1885 with a special emphasis in teaching, Lacey taught in the local schools before she decided to open a school of her own with the support of the Christ Presbyterian Church.


Laney used the the basement of the church to teach her students. The school began with six young women before expanding to include young men as well. With the school growing to a population of about two hundred students, Laney sought funds to expand the school and create a proper home for the institution. She purchased a one-way ticket to speak at a Presbyterian assembly in Minnesota. Although the members supported her cause, they lacked the funds to support her vision. Later, a woman that was at the assembly (Mrs. F.B.H. Haines) raised $10,000 to support Laney's cause.

Laney's school opened as the Haines Normal and Industrial School because of her patron's generosity. Those who attended her school include Mary Mcleod Bethune--one of the most important black leaders of the 20th century who also started a school of her own. Laney's school opened as the Haines Normal and Industrial School because of her patron's generosity. Those who attended her school include Mary Mcleod Bethune--one of the most important black leaders of the 20th century who also started a school of her own. 

Lucy Craft Laney died in 1933. After her death, her school was renamed the Lucy Craft Laney School. Her home was damaged in a fire in the 1980s, but was soon restored and used as a local history museum. Visitors to the museum can visit Laney's grave after touring the exhibits and reflecting upon the history her her life.