Celebrating Black History at Oakland: Selena Sloan Butler
Born in Thomasville, Georgia on January 4, 1872, Selena Sloan Butler grew up understanding the importance of children’s and parents’ rights. She was born to a white father and a mixed-race mother who was of Indian and African American descent. Selena was raised without her father being present, but even though physically absent, he provided financial support. She grew up with her mother and sister in Thomasville, Georgia, completing her primary schooling there before attending Spelman Seminary (now Spelman College) in Atlanta. After graduating from Spelman when she was 16, Selena started her teaching career in Atlanta. She later married Dr. Henry Rutherford Butler, a well-known African American physician in Atlanta. Selena and Dr. Butler had a son, Henry Jr., and shortly after he began school, Selena began to work toward the protection of children’s rights.
Selena was committed to advocating for her community and being a voice for the people. She helped organize a number of community initiatives such as the Spelman College Alumnae Association and the Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the Atlanta YWCA in her early years. Later, she would become the Georgia Federation of Colored Women’s Club’s first president. Through her hard work and diligence, she had the honor of obtaining a seat as a committee member on President Herbert Hoover’s Committee on the Education and Training of the Infant and Preschool Child during his Conference on Child Health and Protection.
Selena organized the first National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers (NCCPT) and cofounded the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, which is now a part of the National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). The first chapter of the NCCPT was founded at Yonge Street Elementary School in Atlanta in 1911, and by 1919, many other chapters had formed across the state. Eventually, the local chapters banded together and became the Georgia Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers.
Selena died on October 7, 1964, and was buried alongside her husband, Dr. Henry Rutherford Butler Sr., in Oakland Cemetery. Since her death, she has been inducted into the Georgia Women of Achievement. Her portrait currently hangs in the Georgia state capitol commemorating her hard work in changing the field of education and serving as a community activist. Selena will always be remembered for her work on improving educational environments and safeguarding the rights of all children.