By Henrietta Coursey
Born June 5, 1914, in New Bern, NC, Almira Kennedy Coursey was the oldest of four children of the late Agustus T. and Juanita C. Kennedy. She spent her early years living and going to school in Winston-Salem, NC.
Almira, following in the tradition of her family, attended Saint Augustine’s College from 1931 to 1934 and was graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education. Not only did she attend Saint Augustine’s College,but so did her three siblings: William Kennedy, Henrietta Kennedy Yeates, and Wilhemenia Kennedy Gilchrist (’38). This tradition continued with Almira’s two nieces, Charlesetta Yeates Morgan and Viola Yeates Parker (’69).
The alma mater that she cherished and worked for in her early years as Assistant Dean of Women, helped to shape her life, beliefs and dedication to community service, as well as the education of disadvantaged youth. She exhibited her pride in the college by spearheading the formation of the National Alumni Association. She always supported the work of the association and the college.
Almira carried the leadership qualities that she developed at Saint Augustine’s College with her throughout her life. As a young teacher in Clayton, North Carolina, she began her life-long commitment to community service by organizing the Three Ws Program for teenage girls.
The Three Ws signified Fine Womanhood, Wholesome Recreation, and Willingness to Serve; these ideals were nurtured at Saint Augustine’s College and became recurring themes in her personal and professional life.
In the late 1940’s, she moved to the Bedford Stuyvesant community in New York City. She soon met and married the love of her life, Henry Ellis Coursey, who died in 1968. From this union, they had three children: Harriet, Pierre, and Henrietta. Almira demonstrated her leadership, strength. and deep spiritual beliefs that helped her to be a supportive wife, a nurturing mother, an outstanding educator and community leader.
While teaching at Nathaniel Macon Junior High School, 258 in New York, and raising three young children, she earned her master’s degree in student personnel administration from Teacher’s College, Columbia University, She also did post-graduate work in educational supervision and special education. Almira was truly a driving force for quality education in New York City.
In 1968, she took a leave of absence from her position as assistant principal at Macon Junior High School. Almira was offered the position as special assistant to the vice chancellor of the City University of New York. In this capacity, she spearheaded the development and implementation of new programs and opportunities such as SEEK and College Discovery for minority Students and disadvantaged young men and women to attend the university. Not only did Almira have an impact on education, she has contributed to the development of important and lasting institutions and services in her community.
Among these institutions and services were: The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation; The Tompkins Park Recreational and Cultural Center; The Planning Board Number Three; Community Sponsors Young Mother’s Program; Central Brooklyn Model Cities; Youth-in-Action and The Weeksville Society.
She was a member of the Board of Directors of Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration, and was appointed to city-wide committees on poverty and education by former New York City mayors Wagner and Lindsay. In her spirit of sisterhood, she was a lifetime member and past Basileus of Delta Alpha Zeta Chapter, Zeta Phi Beta.
In recognition of her unselfish leadership and dedicated service, she was presented with numerous awards and citations. Among them were: Zeta Phi Beta Woman of the Year; Bedford Stuyvesant Community Activist Award; Sojourner Truth Meritorious Service Award; Community Sponsor’s Award: New York City Park’s Council Citizen Award; Tompkins Park Recreational and Cultural Association Distinguished Service Award; and Restoration Corporation Service Award.
Almira Kennedy Coursey was a long-time member of St. Phillips Episcopal Church on McDonough Street in Brooklyn,New York.
On August 29, 1996 in Brooklyn, New York, where she had lived for more than 40 years, the angels took Almira Kennedy Coursey. (Publishers’ note: While teaching at 258, Mrs. Coursey was a mentor to both publishers of Our Time Press.)