Fort Wayne African-American trailblazer Hana Stith dies

Local News
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Fort Wayne African-American community leader Hana Stith, one of the first black teachers at Fort Wayne Community Schools and the founder of the city’s African/African-American Historical Society and Museum has died. She was 90.

Ken Christmon, senior pastor at Turner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church where Stith was a parishioner, told WANE 15 that Stith passed away early Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio where her daughter lives. It’s not clear yet how she died.

Stith was one of the first black teachers in Fort Wayne when she was hired by Fort Wayne Community Schools in 1960 in the midst of the civil rights movement. She taught primarily in inner city schools for nearly four decades.

Superintendent Dr. Wendy Robinson issued the following statement regarding the passing of Stith:

Growing up in Fort Wayne, I was blessed to have strong, black, female role models. Hana Stith was one of them. I was fortunate to work with her throughout my career. The one thing you can say about Mrs. Stith is she cared about all people, and she always wanted to do the right thing for children. Fort Wayne Community Schools is indebted to her for all the years she gave to kids. Her passing is a great loss to the community.

Stith retired from Fort Wayne Community Schools in 1996. Afterward, she served on the Executive Board of the local chapter of the NAACP and with the Fort Wayne Urban League. Stith was the first woman appointed to the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission, and she served on the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission and the Fort Wayne Board of Public Safety.

Stith and her late husband, Harold, co-founded the African/African-American Historical Society, and in 2000, opened the society’s museum with artifacts and documents she’d collected. She served as the museum’s CEO, Manager and Director until 2013.

In 2009, Stith was honored with the Wabash College Jasmine Robinson Pioneer Award, which celebrates the achievements of women who have made significant contributions to their field and have shaped and nurtured the lives of African Americans. 

In 2015, then, Stith was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Saint Francis. At that ceremony, University of Saint Francis president Sister M. Elise Kriss spoke about Stith’s dedication to education.

“Hana Stith is an inspiration to us all, and the work she continues to do for our young people shows how dedicated she is to education,” Kriss said then of Stith.

Upon hearing news of Stith’s passing on Wednesday, Reverend Bill McGill called Stith a “soldier” and wished her rest.

Stith leaves behind a daughter Robin, who is a prominent civil rights attorney in Columbus, Ohio.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry offered his condolences via Twitter:

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