Euphemia Lofton Haynes, First Black Woman to Earn Ph.D. in Math, Elevated D.C. Academic Community

Euphemia Lofton Haynes, First Black Woman to Earn Ph.D. in Math, Elevated D.C. Academic Community

Euphemia Lofton Haynes, First Black Woman to Earn Ph.D. in Math, Elevated D.C. Academic Community

UDC alum Euphemia Lofton Haynes

Paving the way for future students and education leaders, UDC alum Euphemia Lofton Haynes was the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics.

Born Martha Euphemia Lofton on September 11, 1890, she grew up in Washington, D.C., and earned a degree in education from Miner Normal School in 1909. Five years later, she completed a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., and, in 1930, attained a Master’s in Education from the University of Chicago.

That year, Haynes also founded the math department at Miner Teachers College (later renamed the University of the District of Columbia), which focused on training African American teachers. Haynes became a professor at the school and remained head of its math department for nearly 30 years, chairing its Division of Mathematics and Business Education. Occasionally, she taught part time at Howard University.

Haynes continued her studies in mathematics at Catholic University, and in 1943, earned a Ph.D.—making her the first African American woman to do so in the subject. After receiving her doctorate, she began her lifelong journey of providing academic support and influence in the D.C. area.

Haynes taught in D.C. Public Schools for 47 years and was an outspoken critic of the school system’s de facto system of segregation and its track structure, which placed students in academic or vocational programs depending on their ability. She believed the tracks discriminated against Black and poor students; the system was later abolished when Haynes served as president of the D.C. Public Schools Board from 1966 to 1967. She served as a member of the nine-member school board for seven years—then appointed by judges of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia—before becoming its president and the first chair of the board.

After retiring from public schools in 1959, Haynes devoted herself to many causes and organizations, among them the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, the Committee of International Social Welfare and the Executive Committee of the National Social Welfare Assembly. She also co-founded the Catholic Interracial Council of the District of Columbia. Haynes served on the board of Catholic Charities and as a member of the D.C. branch of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (now known as the National Conference for Community and Justice). In 1959, Haynes was awarded a papal medal, the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, for her efforts on behalf of the Catholic Church and her community.

Haynes’ father was a prominent dentist known for supporting African American businesses in the D.C. area and her mother was active in the Catholic Church.

In 1917, Haynes married childhood friend Harold Appo Haynes, an influential leader in Washington’s African American school system, where he served as a school principal and a deputy superintendent of D.C. Public Schools.

Haynes continued her work with the Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., until her death in 1980 at 89.