Fort Wayne civil-rights legend Hana Stith dead at age 90

Hana Stith co-founded Fort Wayne's African/African-American Historical Museum. ( file photo)

Fort Wayne civil-rights icon Hana Stith has died at age 90.

Born in Fort Wayne on Aug. 25, 1928, Stith was co-founder of the African/African-American Historical Society Museum and taught for 36 years, being among the first African-American teachers to be hired by Fort Wayne Community Schools. She was a graduate of Central High School and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Saint Francis. Honors included the Sagamore of the Wabash and Saint Francis University Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

Stith joined the junior branch of the NAACP before graduating from Central in 1946 and received a scholarship from the Fourth District Lay Organization of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and used it to attend Wilberforce College in Wilberforce, Ohio, the first institution of higher education owned and operated by African Americans. Stith finished her education at Saint. Francis College, earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees there and was certified by Purdue University in guidance and counseling.

After becoming a teacher in 1960, Stith spent 22 years as a classroom teacher and then became a Title I teacher, instructing students who needed individual attention in reading and math. She retired from teaching in 1996 and became a docent for the Lincoln Museum as well as a board member of the local NAACP chapter before co-founding the African/African American Historical Society in 1998 with her late husband, Harold. In 1999 she found a home for the African/African American Historical Museum, which opened on Feb. 1, 2000.

Stith was active in the community, serving as an original member of the Fair Housing Group and an early member of the Panel of American Women. As the first woman appointed to the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission, she served 12 years under four mayors and set a record for serving longer than anyone else. She also was appointed to the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission, serving four years, and the Fort Wayne Board of Safety, serving six years. As a member of the Turner Chapel A.M.E. Church, she was the director of the Commission on Christian Education. She taught Sunday school for 17 years and organized the church’s first vacation Bible school.