1897-1931. Juliette Dercotte was an African-American educator and political activist whose death after receiving racist treatment after a fatal car accident sparked outrage in the African-American community.
Raised in Athens, GA., Ms. Derricotte was educated in the public schools and at Talladega College. She was the first woman trustee of the College (appointed 1918). Ms. Derricotte was a renowned speaker, traveling across the U.S. in support of black colleges and education.
She was a delegate at the convention of the World’s Student Christian Federation in 1924 and 1928, where she represented all American college students. She served the YWCA as the National Student Secretary, resigning in 1929 to become Dean Of Women at Fisk University.
She was born the fifth of nine children of Isaac Derricotte and Laura Derricotte, a cobbler and a seamstress. As a child, she was hopeful of attending the local Institute and was crushed when her mother told her she would be unable to due to her color. This event helped shape her perception of the world and her desire to change people’s racial prejudices.
Her drive for education helped land her in Talladega College, where she ended up getting a scholarship for her public speaking. After she graduated in 1918, she enrolled at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Training School. She then became the YWCA secretary of the National Student Council. Her responsibilities included visiting colleges, planning conferences, and fostering ideas and leadership. She is credited with recreating the council in ideology, helping it become more balanced, open, and most importantly, interracial. In 1924, Derricotte became a member of the World Student Christian Federation and began traveling the world as a delegate representing American colleges. In 1927, she received a master’s degree in religious education from Columbia University. She resigned her YWCA position in 1929 to become Dean of Women at Fisk University.
Derricotte died in a traffic accident in 1931. While riding in a car driven by a student, they collided with a white couple. Both Derricotte and the student were seriously injured. Although they received emergency treatment from white doctors, they were refused admittance to the local hospital because they were black. They were moved to a local woman’s house, and both died by morning. This triggered national outrage and several investigations, one involving the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
At the time of her death she was still Dean of Women at Fisk University.