Dorothy Hollingsworth, a prominent educator and politician, achieved a number of “firsts” during her years in Seattle. The most important was becoming the first black woman in Washington State’s history to serve on a school board. Born in Bishopville, South Carolina on October 29, 1920, Hollingsworth moved at an early age to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She later attended Paine College, graduating in 1941. After teaching in South Carolina and then in North Carolina during World War II, she moved to Seattle in 1946 with her husband, Raft Hollingsworth.
Soon after her arrival Hollingsworth became active in the Madison Branch of the Seattle YWCA, First A.M.E. Church, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. Denied a position as a teacher in Seattle Public Schools in 1949, Hollingsworth became an investigator for the state Department of Welfare. She received a master’s degree in social work in 1959 from the University of Washington. Soon after, she became a social worker in Seattle Public schools.
In the early 1960s, Hollingsworth became involved with the local civil rights movement, protesting restrictive covenants and championing open housing initiatives throughout the city. In 1965, she became the first African American woman to manage a major city agency when she was selected by the Seattle School District as the director of the Head Start Program. That program, part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society national anti-poverty initiative, was the first Head Start program in the state of Washington. Hollingsworth established, organized, and implemented the program according to the federal guidelines from 1965 to 1969. Her high visibility in this post led the National Director of Head Start to appoint her in 1966 to the national advisory board of Sesame Street, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) children’s TV program.
From 1969 to 1971, Hollingsworth served as Deputy Director for Planning for the Model Cities Program,