Sallie B. Howard was born in 1916 in Wilson, NC. to a family of sharecroppers. Although she started school late, she maintained a passion for education and went on to graduate from Darden High School in 1938 at the top of her class. Shortly after high school, she had enough money saved to enter Kittrell College, where she studied for two years before marrying Arthur P. Howard in 1942.
In 1943, the Howards migrated North. There in New York City, Mrs. Howard began studying creative writing and joined Harlem’s famous American Negro Theater. At ANT, she trained and performed with world-renowned performers such as Esther Rolle, Sidney Poitier, Isabella Sanford, Harry Belafonte and Ruby Dee.
In 1950, Mrs. Howard won a scholarship to Hunter College, where she received her BA and Master’s degrees in Elementary Education. The Howards moved to Long Island shortly thereafter. It was there where Mrs. Howard began her journey as an educator at Public School 50Q.
Mrs. Howard’s passion for knowledge went well beyond the four walls of the school. Over the next 30 years, she would travel the world, visiting over 40 different countries in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa and studying the history of civilization in pursuit of knowledge.
Long devoted to empowering the lives of young people and her community, she founded the Community Parent Youth Association (CPYA), a youth theater troupe for which she wrote numerous plays and poems.
Upon her retirement in 1979, Mrs. Howard returned to North Carolina and became an active member of St. John A.M.E Zion Church. While there, she organized the youth choir, usher board, drama department, the academic honor roll and the mini gospel band where youth members learned to play percussion, string instruments and piano.
In the summer of 1989, Mrs. Sallie B. Howard and Dr. JoAnne Woodard founded the Youth Enrichment Program (YEP) at St. John Church. Their goal was to raise the educational achievement aspirations of at-risk children. With the support of nearby churches and community leaders, they launched YEP as a summer camp that went on to serve over 400 children every summer for the next 8 years, touching the lives of over 3000 youth and their families!
The positive impact of YEP on the community led Dr. Woodard and Mrs. Howard to develop a year-round school program. In 1997, YEP was granted a license to operate a charter school and, thus, the Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education was born. Because of her tireless commitment to educate, inspire, and empower young people, the school was named in Mrs. Howard’s honor. Today, Sallie B. Howard School serves over 1100 students in grades K-12 and is a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School for Excellence in Closing the Achievement Gap.