President Harry Truman was the President of the United States from 1945 to 1953, a time of grand expectations in post WWII America. He succeeded President Franklin D. Roosevelt after he died. President Truman had big shoes to fill after President Roosevelt’s historic New Deal. One of those shoes to fill was America’s changing culture and an increased sense of expectations. Some of those expectations included an increase in funding for public education. Many education advocates at the time felt as if public education needed increased funding in order to prepare all Americans for post WWII life. Though President Truman supported President Roosevelt’s New Deal, during his presidency he was a fiscal conservative who questioned federal involvement in state education and thought that his presidency was not a time for “experiments.” According to President Truman:
When I say I am opposed to Federal control of the schools, I mean I am opposed to control by any officer or department of the Federal Government, whether it be the United States Office of Education, the Federal Security Agency, or any other bureau or official. I, therefore, do not understand how the relationship between any of these offices or agencies is of any relevance to the problem of keeping the schools of America free of Federal control. (Harry S. Truman Library & Museum).
Delilah W. Pierce was the chairman of public affairs for the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa at the time and is on record, according to the National Education Association of the United States, as asking the 81st Congress to pass an adequate federal-aid-to-education bill. Delilah W. Pierce and Phi Delta Kappa:
[F]avored federal aid to education under state and local control, to assist the states in…equalizing educational opportunity for all the youth of our nation regardless of race or creed.
To view more about Delilah W. Pierce and the history of African Americans on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket please view: African-Americans on Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket. The book was authored by Robert C. and Karen E. Hayden, and published by Select Publications and the University of Wisconsin – Madison, 1999.
As a member of the Phi Delta Kappa Sorority, Delilah W. Pierce fought so that Washington, DC and all underserved school districts, including rural districts, could receive appropriate funding for public education.
In the December 26, 1957 issue of Jet Magazine Delilah W. Pierce helped promote Earl Hooks’ and James A. Porter’s painting and ceramic exhibit at Howard University.
James A. Porter was the head of Howard’s art department at the time and the director of Howard’s art gallery. Mr. Porter would go on to receive the Lady Bird Johnson award for being one of the best art teachers in the nation.
Earl Hooks at the time was a new comer and a teacher in Washington, DC. Mr. Hooks went on to chair the art department at Fisk University.
Delilah W. Pierce hosted a planning meeting of the Phi Delta Kappa sorority at her home in the Washington, DC Gold Coast – A nickname for the community of Washington, DC’s African American elite. At the time, the president was Mr. Olivia Henry, educator and fierce advocate for African American young people understanding the importance of education.
Delilah W. Pierce and Alma Thomas were professional peers and friends. According to the Smithsonian Institutes Archives of American Art their relationship was captured in the Alma Thomas papers, 1894-2001, in her Little Paris Group, 1948. The Little Paris Group, as described in the archives: