Ruby Middleton Forsythe was born June 27, 1905. She was an African-American educator from Charleston, SC. Middleton earned her license of education instruction certificate from Avery Institute, which had been created in 1865, in 1921. Avery Institute for grammar and high school epitomized excellence and provided its students with the best liberal education and cultural experience. She received her BS from South Carolina State College and started her teaching career in 1924 in Mount Pleasant’s Laing School, run by the American Missionary Society.
She married the Reverend William Essex Forsythe, an Episcopal priest, who was in charge of Holy Cross-Faith Memorial Church and School on Pawley’s Island. In 1938, she began teaching in a one-room school on Pawley’s Island, the only educational facility available to black people on the island. She received her degree in education from South Carolina State College in 1956, and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1988 (she won four honorary doctorates over her lifetime). Forsythe continued to teach at Holy Cross-Faith Memorial School until she retired in 1981. Known to many as Miss Ruby, Forsythe said of the pieces of her life as an educator: “You got to start with little things that are not in the book to teach respect. The schoolteacher today has to be mother, father, counselor, everything. The majority of children have nobody to sit down with them and teach them the little things that are right from the things that ‘Let’s Talk,’ because their parents just don’t have the time.” She also summed up her legacy to education and to the people of the island where she taught for much of the 20th century by affirming that she sowed “the best seed into whatever soil we come into contact with, watching the growth, and the reproduction of the product sent forth.”
Ruby Middleton Forsythe died in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina on May 29, 1992.
I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America
Edited by Barbara Summers
Photos and Interviews by Brian Lanker
Copyright 1989, Workman Publishing