Windsor mural celebrates education pioneer Ada Kelly Whitney  

Ada Kelly Whitney

There are three new murals recently unveiled along a Windsor main street corridor.

One of the individuals highlighted is Ada Kelly Whitney, known for being the first Black woman hired by an Ontario public school board, according to the Essex County Black Historical Research Society.

“I’m so proud of her,” expressed the group’s president Irene Moore Davis, who also happens to be a descendent of Whitney’s. Davis’ grandmother and Whitney were first cousins.

“My whole family is so proud of her.”

Born in 1893 in Windsor to Black Canadians from the McDougall Street Corridor community, Davis explained that Whitney was an excellent student whose former principal recommended her to the Windsor Board of Education when it was in search of teachers in 1913.

The board hired her, and she proceeded to teach at the Mercer Street School, instilling great pride in her students, Davis said, many of whom grew up in her neighbourhood and had not been taught by someone who looked like them.

Ada Kelly Whitney mural

“She was just a really great role model,” Davis added.

Her life later took her to Toronto, and New York — but her lasting legacy in Windsor remains.

“Of course, when we talk about Ada Kelly Whitney as the first Black woman hired by an Ontario Public School board, we’re in no way negating the incredible contributions of the many Black teachers who preceded her, who were not working for public school boards but were working for segregated schools, privately funded schools, missionary schools, and so on,” Davis added.

“She was working within a tradition of great Black educators in this region and this province and really looked up to those role models herself.”