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School renamed for Hammond's 1st Black teacher

Maywood Elementary is now known as Annie Burns-Hicks Elementary.

HAMMOND, Ind. — NOTE: The above video is from a previous report on Annie Burns-Hicks.

The first Black teacher in Hammond returned to Northwest Indiana Monday for MLK Day ceremonies.

School officials, former students, and family recognized Annie Burns-Hicks for the school that now carries her name.

How she got there is a compelling story.

Her father moved the family to Hammond, Indiana, from Mississippi after he witnessed two Black boys lynched. 

"He said, 'Now I've brought you up north for a better life, and the only thing I ask from you is for you to try and make this world a better place.' I have never forgotten that. I remember it every day. I tried to do that," Burns-Hicks said. 

She graduated from Ball State Teachers College (now University) and wanted to come back home to teach. 

She won a court battle to become the city's first Black teacher in the fall of 1960. Her first job was at Maywood Elementary, which is now Annie Burns-Hicks Elementary.

Credit: Annie Hicks
Annie Hicks with her first grade class at Maywood School in Hammond, Ind. in 1966.

She taught primarily first grade for more than 40 years. She said she never sent any students to the office but would separate them from the rest of the class until they were ready to behave and cooperate. She produced Black history teaching aids and tried to address racism with education.

"I think if people learn to communicate, we can get along," Annie said. "But if you go in fighting or fussing, then that's not going to do anything. It's just going to make it worse. But if you can learn to communicate and help them communicate, that's good."

Credit: Tina Gavia

Annie is now 84 years old and lives at a senior community in Indianapolis.

Hammond native Roland G. Parrish has produced a documentary called "This Wall Must Come Down" about the change she started in their hometown.