Monday, February 12, 2018

Our Salute to Trailblazing Black Girl Scout Leaders


Dr. Gloria Scott, GSUSA’s first black National Board president, reviews the new program resources with a group of Girl Scouts in 1974.

In honor of Black History Month, let’s give a hearty Girl Scout shout-out to all the amazing black women who have helped forge an inclusive organization where every girl has a safe place to grow and thrive—regardless of her race, religion, orientation, gender expression, or socioeconomic background.

Since 1912, Girl Scouts has welcomed all girls willing to live up to the ideals of the Girl Scout Promise and Law. And the Girl Scout Movement puts principle into practice every day at every level of the organization, from presidents to CEOs to troop leaders to Daisies.

Our promise of inclusivity dates back to 1913, when black girls in Bedford, Massachusetts, joined the third Girl Scout troop ever formed. The first all-black Girl Scout troops were established as early as 1917.

But the south proved to be a more challenging undertaking. Enter Josephine Holloway, who, after much perseverance, established the south’s first black Girl Scout troop in Nashville, Tennessee.

Josephine had dreamed of offering Girl Scout–inspired programming to girls at Nashville’s Bethlehem Center, a shelter for at-risk women and children. Her initial effort was a rousing success and attracted more than 300 girls by the end of 1924. Then, in 1933, she made her first attempt to form an official Girl Scout troop for black girls. Unfortunately, the Nashville Girl Scout council denied her initial request. Nevertheless, she persisted. Finally, in 1942, Josephine established the region’s first black Girl Scout troop.

With decades of experience serving girls under her belt (she even attended a training personally conducted by Juliette Gordon Low!), Girl Scouts eventually hired Josephine as a field adviser for black troops, and she remained in that position until her retirement.

In 1943, just a little further south in Atlanta, Georgia, Bazoline Usher was busy raising her voice to advocate for girls in her school district. One of the first black women in Georgia to be offered a teaching position, she led a group of 30 volunteers to start black Girl Scout troops—later known as District V. The Girl Scouts of District V epitomized the indomitable Girl Scout spirit from the beginning—in their first year as Girl Scouts, they placed second in cookie sales in Atlanta!

Within the national Girl Scout ranks, black women gained responsibility and increased visibility. From 1969 to 1972, Dr. Dorothy Celeste Boulding Ferebee served as the national fourth vice president of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA). In 1975, Dr. Gloria D. Scott began her tenure as the first black National Board president, during which time she was instrumental in increasing the focus on diversity within the Girl Scout Movement.


The Girl Scout logo was designed in 1978 by Saul Bass, recognized 
as one of the greatest graphic designers in history.

As a board member in the late 1960s, Gloria observed that, despite Girl Scouts’ ongoing commitment to diversity, many groups were still underrepresented, not only among Girl Scouts themselves, but also among the national leadership. Her efforts to change this resulted in an influx of minority women in Girl Scout leadership, as well as concerted efforts to reach girls of diverse populations. Her vision led to several groundbreaking (and controversial for the time) conferences that addressed diversity among Girl Scouts, most notably Scouting for Black Girls in 1970.

In the next few decades, Girl Scouts continued its commitment to diversity and multiculturalism by reaching out to minority communities and pledging to promote respect and appreciation for the religious, racial, ethnic, social, and economic diversity of our country.

Today, across the United States, Girl Scouts has powerful girls and women of color at every level. Let’s give them all a shout-out—we want to hear from you! Share your story, or tag us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #GirlScoutsRock and #BlackHistoryMonth.