JoAnn Armstead

JoAnn had her first daughter in 1953, when she was 19. The father wasn’t around much, so she found herself struggling for a support system to help raise her daughter. JoAnn had been orphaned at birth. Most young parents can call their parents and ask for advice; JoAnn never had that luxury. So she went to the library and turned to the books of Dr. Benjamin Spock.

In the 1950s, it was difficult for African–Americans to get a job in corporate America, so JoAnn knew she had to continue her education in order to give herself and her daughter a fighting chance.

JoAnn had her second baby five years later; she says the second time around was a lot easier. She worked full time and went to school at night for seven years. She earned her degree in business administration; she is now the founder and president of the Nevada chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians.

The toughest challenge, she says, was keeping her children in good company, among friends who wouldn’t lead them astray. Apparently she did a good job: One of her daughters is an attorney and the other is a physician. Even now the daughters will call JoAnn and ask her …

“How did you do it, Mom?”