In 1922, Edward Marshall Howard, a young man from Charlottesville, Virginia, left his home and travelled 150 miles to attend Hampton Institute, a college in Hampton, Virginia. Born in 1900, Edward was the son of Marshall, a chauffeur, and Lula, a schoolteacher, who wanted to study mechanical engineering.
He left behind his family and his girlfriend Anne Kelley, whom he’d known since childhood. At Hampton, he dived into his studies and joined the basketball, track and field and football teams.
In the 1920’s, only .1 percent of blacks held a four-year college degree. Today that number is 22.5 percent. Rampant discrimination and economic disadvantages were the primary reasons, but many other factors played an integral role.
In 1925, Edward married his sweetheart Anne who was expecting their child. Shortly after their daughter Ernestine was born in 1925, they divorced and Anne left Virginia with her daughter and headed North to find work. There, with her mother’s sister Harriet, Anne settled in Chelsea, Massachusetts and worked as a cook at the Chelsea Naval Hospital. At church, she was introduced to a northerner, Albert Theodore Sneed, who worked at the General Electric plant aviation unit, and the two married in 1930. Albert raised Ernestine as his own along with their five other children.
Ernestine went on to study nursing at the Boston City Hospital School of Nursing in 1947, and several years after she completed her education in 1950, met William Marshall Cline, who worked at Massachusetts General Hospital and was the son of Lizzie Cline, a cook, and Morris Pompey, a farmer in Shelby, North Carolina. William and Ernestine, or Bill & Teeny, as they were known, shared a love of nursing and married in 1957.
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