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Ellen Holly

@ Weeksville Heritage Center

Jennifer Scott, Ellen Holly


Great-granddaughter of Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward; Great-Grandniece of Susan Smith Tompkins Garnet, Great-granddaughter of Bishop James Theodore Holly (First African-American Bishop of the Episcopal Church) Ellen Holly was born in New York in 1931. She grew up in Hempstead, NY, on Ryerson Street, in the home of her grandmother, Anna McKinney Holly. Ellen’s father was a chemical engineer, who was, according to Ellen, the first chemist to use titanium pigment in commercial and industrial paints: he invented paints for the Dupont and Moore paint companies. Ellen’s mother attended the University of Minnesota, before marrying Ellen’s father. Both parents instilled a strong sense of history and pride in Ellen’s African-American heritage. In this interview, she describes a childhood and adulthood surrounded by the stories, artifacts and genealogies of her family’s past. Ellen’s father was the son of Anna McKinney Holly, who was, in turn, the daughter of Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward. Ellen grew up with Dr. Smith McKinney Steward’s portrait prominently displayed in the family home. Ellen’s family oral history included a story of Dr. Smith McKinney Steward’s graduation from New York Medical College. Although graduating as valedictorian of her class, there was an attempt from school officials to keep her from addressing her fellow white classmates. Dr. Smith refused to comply, and addressed her class as valedictorian. In addition to the stories about Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward, Ellen also heard oral history about the family’s earliest ancestor, who was named Solomon. According to her family’s oral history,...
Oral History Wav
Jennifer Scott, Ellen Holly, Meron Tebeje
Created Date:
1931 2008
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Record Contributed By

Weeksville Heritage Center