Florida’s finest: Blanche Ely
“Education, like music, is a universal principle. Learn the principles for yourself: basic truth, moral standard, reasoning and essential element.” Blanche Ely
Blanche Ely was born in Reddick, Fla. to Deacon John General and Sarah Enock General. When her mother passed away before she was two, Blanche was raised by her father & step-mother Amanda General.
Blanche Ely earned a bachelor of arts degree at Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, then went on to earn her master of education degree at Columbia University in New York. She also held a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Instructions – Bachelor of Science Degree, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Fla., and Benedict College, N.C.; and Master’s Degree in Administration and Supervision, Columbia University, New York, NY.
In 1923 Blanche G. Ely was named principal of what was then called the “Pompano Colored School.” When the wood framed school was destroyed in a hurricane, a new school was constructed on the south side of Northwest Sixth Street. The 11th grade was added and, through Principal Ely’s efforts, students completing that grade were prepared to proceed directly to colleges.
As an educational leader she faced many challenges because Black students attended school only six months out of the year, from June to late December, until as late as 1951. The Florida State Constitution, State Department of Public Instruction and the Broward County District legally closed the school yearly for African American children to go to farm corps. At the time, the town’s economy consisted of mainly agriculture, domestic services, fishing and tourists. The students worked part time & full time on the farms.
In 1954, after the high school was built in Northwest Pompano, graduates & others fought successfully to have the school renamed Blanche Ely High School in her honor.
As an educator she emphasized academic programs and nourished young teachers & administrators to continue her work. She was instrumental in securing funding for the migrant housing Project where a school was built, and from it emerged the Markham Elementary School. A housing project for low-income families was named Ely Estates, and NW 6 Ave was named for her.
She & her husband, Professor Joseph Ely, sponsored the first federally funded lunch program in Broward County.
In 1970, Broward County School Board “phased-out” Blanche Ely High School. Principal Ely and Parent Teacher Association filed a lawsuit against School Board. The case went to Appellate and U.S. Supreme Courts, and Blanche Ely High School re-opened in 1975.
She initiated and implemented four schools, recommended names for schools and principals: Pompano Migrant School aka Golden Acres, Coleman Elementary School, Mark-ham Elementary school and Sanders Park Elementary School. She began an “Education Mecca” in Broward County.
Blanche General Ely died Dec. 23, 1993 & is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Pompano Beach. The city’s first Black historical museum is set in the three-bedroom home of Mrs. Blanche General Ely at Northwest 15th Street and Northwest Sixth Avenue.