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date: 29 November 2022

Egypt, Ophelia Settlefree

(1903–1984)

Egypt, Ophelia Settlefree

(1903–1984)
  • Carrie J. SmithCarrie J. SmithFalk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, Social Work

Summary

Ophelia Settle Egypt (1903–1984) was a pioneer in family planning among economically disadvantaged African Americans. She is best known for her work in planned parenthood through her efforts at the Parklands Planned Parenthood Clinic in Washington, DC, from 1956 to 1968.

Subjects

  • Biographies

Ophelia Settle Egypt, a pioneer in family planning among economically disadvantaged African Americans, also made significant contributions in the areas of historical social research and social work education. Born in a small town near Clarksville, Texas, Egypt received a BA degree from Howard University in 1925 and obtained an MA in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1928. In 1944 she was awarded an MS from the New York School of Social Work. She later received an advanced certificate for work toward a PhD at the Pennsylvania School of Social Work.

In 1929, while serving as a research assistant to Dr. Charles S. Johnson, director of the Social Science Department at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, Egypt conducted original research on the conditions of slavery among African Americans. Her personal interviews with more than 100 former slaves in Tennessee and Kentucky are contained in Unwritten History of Slavery: Autobiographical Accounts of Negro Ex-Slaves, which was published by Fisk University in 1968. The original, historical research conducted by Johnson and Egypt was one of the earliest uses of oral history documentation in the United States, predating the Works Progress Administration 1936–1938 study, the largest collection of ex-slave interviews available in this country.

Egypt served as director of the medical social work program of Flint Goodridge Hospital in New Orleans (1935–1939) and assisted in the development of the program of studies at the Howard University School of Social Work (1939–1951). In 1952 Egypt became executive director of the Ionia R. Whipper Home, one of the few homes for unwed African American teenage mothers in the Washington, DC, area. Egypt is best known for her pioneering work in the area of planned parenthood through her efforts at the Parklands Planned Parenthood Clinic in Washington, DC, from 1956 to 1968. On October 15, 1981, the clinic was renamed the Ophelia Egypt Clinic, and Mayor Marion Barry proclaimed October 17, 1981, as Ophelia Settle Egypt day.