Sarah Dickey

Quality Education for Young Black Women & Girls

Sarah Ann Dickey (April 25, 1838 – January 23, 1904) was an ordained minister who founded the historically black institution of higher education for women in Clinton, Mississippi, Mount Hermon Female Seminary (now Sumner Hill Junior High School) in 1875. She devoted her life to the development of educational opportunities for African Americans.

Early Life and Education

Sarah Ann Dickey was born on April 25, 1838 near Dayton, Ohio. At the age of 16, she knew she wanted to be a teacher. However, while she could read and spell words, she could not write. She learned to read and write and attended Mount Holyoke Seminary in Massachusetts. During her time there, she developed a desire to teach others. She graduated in 1869.

Mount Hermon Female Seminary

Dickey moved to Clinton in 1871 in order to educate freed slaves. She was granted a charter for Mount Herman Female Seminary for black women, which opened in 1875.

Sarah Dickey operated Mount Hermon Female Seminary from its opening October 4, 1875 continuously until her death, securing funds for operation from her classmates at Mt. Holyoke Seminary in Massachusetts, her own personal friends, and from local contributors. The school was self-sufficient, raising most of its needed vegetables and meat; students were responsible for certain chores as well as their lessons.

Dickey had intended her school to be a seminary for young ladies, but because of Clinton’s local black school closing, she felt compelled to also operate an elementary school. She took in students of all ages, making education available to some who might not have had the opportunity.

The reputation of Mt. Hermon, called Dickey Institute by local residents, spread widely, and it kept an average attendance of about 100 students. By the time of her death in 1904, Dickey had added three dormitories to the main building, and the property was valued at $25,000.

The seminary was eventually closed in 1924 by the American Missionary Association.