Dayton Peace Hero – 2012
“You need to know what people did in the past.”
That’s been one of Margaret Evelyn Peters’s maxims for most, if not all, of her life.
In an interview with the Peace Museum, Margaret said that by understanding what really happened in the past, we could achieve more in the present. Specifically, knowing the accomplishments of our ancestors helps inspire our own achievements. Likewise, the possession of accurate, historical facts about people who are different from us helps us develop positive opinions about them. These conditions contribute to justice and peace.
Margaret was born March 12, 1936, in Dayton, Ohio, where she has lived her entire life. Her parents helped shape her interest in history. Her mother, Mary Margaret Smith Peters, wrote poetry and stories about her own life in Virginia. Her father, Joseph Andrew Peters, graduated at the top of West Virginia Institute’s class of 1917; for his graduation, he wrote a speech about the contributions Black people made in U.S. military history. Both were active in the NAACP; her father, a WWI veteran, was president of the Dayton Unit NAACP from 1923 to 1926.
“I was surrounded by people who loved history,” Margaret said.
Margaret graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1954, and then attended the University of Dayton. She studied history, English, and Spanish. Over the course of 20 years, she earned two bachelor’s degrees, one master’s degree, and a supervisor’s certificate.
Dayton Public Schools hired Margaret initially as a remedial reading teacher. In the late 1960s, people began pushing to include Black history in the curriculum. At a citywide conference on the issue, Margaret stepped in as a substitute for the featured speaker who was unable to attend and delivered her own presentation. She so impressed those in attendance that she was asked to become the Black history resource teacher for the district.
Margaret’s last assignment with Dayton Public Schools was at Colonel White High School where she taught English and social studies. She retired in 1993 but remains active in her church and the community.
Margaret has written extensively, and her works include The Ebony Book of Black Achievement and Dayton’s African-American Heritage. Since 1995, she has also written a weekly column for the Dayton Weekly News. And she has been the recipient of many national, state, and local honors. The Dayton International Peace Museum named her a Peace Hero in 2012.
Of her accomplishments, Margaret is most proud of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Program; the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Art, Poetry, and Prose Contest; and the impact she’s had on the lives of her students.
When asked what advice she would give young people interested in promoting justice and peace, she said: “Learn what’s already been done, not just by Martin Luther King Jr., but the whole civil rights struggle. Get involved with a group whose methods and objectives you agree with, because it’s very difficult to do anything by yourself.”