A caring parent can make all the difference

History is replete with examples of the power of one person to make a difference. There are, in fact, so many examples of the ability of one person to affect change that what is surprising is that we still marvel when it happens. Such is the case with Selena Butler.

Selena Sloan Butler was born in 1872 in Thomasville, Ga. As a young woman, she graduated from the Spelman Seminary and, after graduation, was instrumental in founding the Spelman College Alumnae Association. She married a prominent doctor, Henry Butler, and two years later they moved to Atlanta.

In 1899 her first son Henry Jr. was born and, as he grew older, Selena had trouble finding a suitable preschool in which to enroll her son so she started an in-home kindergarten. Later, distressed by the state of Atlanta schools, she would enlist the help of other parents of school-aged children and together they formed the first chapter of the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers at the Yonge Street Elementary School in Atlanta.

By 1926 the organization had grown to true national status and two years later President Hoover named Selena Butler to the White House conference on Child Health and Protection.

The National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers had a counterpart in the white community, the National Congress of Mothers. That organization had been started by Alice Birney and Phoebe Hearst. And in 1970, the two organizations got together and it is that meeting that is the subject of this week’s Stories of Atlanta.

Lance Russell is an Atlanta-based filmmaker and media communicator who, for over three decades, has been entrusted by clients to tell their stories. A seasoned producer with an innate ability to cut to the heart of the matter, Lance’s instincts are tailor-made for today’s “media bite” culture. Brief, poignant and always entertaining, Lance’s current passion is bringing Atlanta’s colorful and inspiring past to life with his “rest of the story” style video series, Stories of Atlanta. “History’s best communicators,” says Lance, “have always been storytellers. It’s in our DNA. ‘Once upon a time’ is how we got to where we are now.”

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