Lansing School District’s first African American teacher and principal dies

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Lansing Mayor Andy Schor announced on social media Monday that Lansing School District’s first African American teacher and principal, Olivia Letts, has passed away.

She was 93 years old.

The Letts Community Center was named after her.

Dr. Olivia Letts was hired as the Lansing School District’s first African-American teacher in 1951, according to the Michigan Education Association. She was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2016, honoring her advocacy for education, civil rights, and community service.

“I am saddened to hear that Olivia Letts has passed away. She is an absolute legend here in Lansing, and beyond,” Mayor Schor wrote.

“Dr. Olivia Letts was an amazing educator,” said Lansing School District Superintendent Sam Sinicropi said. “I was fortunate to work closely with her for several years. Dr. Letts was a mentor to many in the Lansing community. She worked tirelessly to not only educate the young people of
Lansing, but she also contributed so much of her time and talent to the entire community in
many ways. I know that I am a better educator and person because of Dr. Olivia Letts.
She will be missed.”

Dr. Olivia Letts began teaching in Lansing in 1951 before becoming principal at Post Oak Elementary.

Along with earning an undergraduate teaching degree, Dr. Letts went on to earn three graduate degrees from Michigan State University including an Ed.S., in Educational Administration and a Ph.D., in Curriculum. Dr. Letts worked to end school, segregation and held leadership positions in several Lansing community charitable organizations. Dr. Olivia Letts was married to Lansing human rights icon Richard Letts until his passing in 1997.

UPDATE: This story has been updated with a statement from the Lansing School District Superintendent.

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