In 1870 Virginia created its first statewide system of public schools, which were racially segregated by law. Gray became a teacher at Alexandria's school for African American girls. The school board named her principal of Hallowell School in 1883. Striving to provide a high-quality education for her students, she traveled north to study new teaching methodologies. At a time when most public schools in Virginia focused on primary grades, Hallowell began adding high school classes for its advanced students. Gray suffered poor health in the last years of her life and retired a few months before her death. When a new school for African Americans opened in 1920, the city honored Gray's service by naming it the Parker-Gray School, for Sarah A. Gray and John F. Parker, another local African American educator.
Reprinted with permission of the Library of Virginia.