Altheda Kennedy Carrie dedicated her life to fighting for racial equality in San Francisco public schools. She was born to Blyden Kennedy and Nellie Gray in Charleston, West Virginia. Her father was a teacher and coal miner and her mother was a seamstress. An excellent student, Carrie was elected class president and graduated from Garnet High School third in her class. Her scholastic achievements earned her a scholarship to Wilberforce University, an all black university in Ohio. After a year at Wilberforce, a professor offered Carrie an opportunity to work in California. She accepted, and moved to San Francisco in the late 1940s.
She enrolled at San Francisco State University where she received both a Bachelor of Arts degree and Master of Arts degree in Psychology, earning her the qualifications to serve as a guidance counselor. Ever civically minded, Carrie knew she wanted to work in education, so she studied for, and earned, her teaching credential.
Ms. Carrie entered the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) during a pivotal time in the fight for racial equality, which posed many challenges for young black teachers. Prejudice and discrimination against people of color was prominent within the SFUSD. The school district at the time typically hired white educators over equally qualified black educators. Describing SFUSD’s hiring practices, Altheda stated, “It wasn’t said, but race was implied.” Supervisors told her that there were no available positions, yet they would continue to hire white teachers.
Determined to begin her career in education, she asked if she could become a substitute teacher instead. Her remarkable persistence and outstanding work ethic eventually led to a meeting with the SFUSD Board of Education. She confronted the Board about its claim of not having any openings for teachers because she noticed that during her first day, there was a permanent opening. When the Board gave her freedom to choose where she would like to teach, she chose Bayview–Hunters Point Elementary.
As she taught, another teacher recommended her to her husband, who was the principal of Rosa Parks Elementary. Carrie decided to follow through with the recommendation. Not long after, the principal of Benjamin Franklin Junior High School offered Carrie a teaching position. Carrie accepted and was promoted to Dean of Students. Carrie said that although it was an honor having a higher position as assistant principal, she did not like being away from the kids.
The demand for Altheda Carrie’s knowledge and expertise continued. A professor visited Benjamin Franklin Junior High School and offered her the chance to take a leave from the district to work with a program called the South Toledo Education Project at San Francisco State University. The purpose of the program was to gather experienced teachers who could assist professors at SFSU to teach graduate students as they earned their teaching credentials.
After a total of 28 years in many educational positions, Carrie’s teaching career concluded at Marina Middle School. Even after she retired, she still wanted to work with students, so she followed her passion by volunteering in the Fillmore at the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center.
Her membership and participation within the greater community involves being a lifetime member of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), the NAACP, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Bay Area Association of Black Psychologists, Bethel AME Church, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and the National Council of Negro Women.
Carrie’s passions focused on education and social activism, especially within youth and families. Aside from her work, she also enjoys traveling, reading, and performing. Following her academic and work careers, Carrie took the time to travel extensively.
Prior to pursuing her master’s degree, Carrie met her future husband, Roosevelt Carrie. From this marriage, Altheda Kennedy became Mrs. Altheda Kennedy Carrie. She and her husband lived in San Francisco and had two children, a son Al and a daughter Ava.
Today she still engages with communities, especially in the Fillmore. She supports local businesses and workers, stays connected to friends of the past, meets new people, and gives students opportunities to make use of their free time by offering volunteer opportunities or connections to the community. She also assisted greatly in the creation of this book by meeting frequently with students at the University of San Francisco.
In many regards, Mrs. Altheda Kennedy Carrie symbolizes change through action, and is known as a community changemaker.
— Jazlynn Pastor and Hannah Shepherd
Carrie, A. (2015, November 15). Personal interview with Jazylnn Pastor.
Mendenhall, Jeffery. “Prince Hall Trains Western Addition Youths in Computer Expertise.” The Western Addition. 31 Mar 2015.
Pearson, Holly. San Francisco Recreation and Parks. 15 Jan 2015.
“BWOPA Lifetime Members.” Black Women Organized for Political Action, Oakland, CA. 2015.