Esther Popel (1896-1958 was a teacher, poet, editor, activist and the first female African American graduate of Dickinson College (Class of 1919). She married a chemist named William Shaw in 1925. The couple had one daughter. Popel used her married name, but typically wrote and published under her maiden name. She identified with the Harlem Renaissance literary movement and is probably best known for her searing poem, “The Flag Salute” (1934), about a lynching that had occurred the previous year in Maryland. However, Popel also wrote a short, fascinating memoir entitled, “Personal Adventures in Race Relations” (1948) that is available online through the Dickinson College Archives and which probably conveys her smart, witty but subtly combative personality as well as any source. For a full biographical entry on Esther Popel Shaw with a useful bibliography of her works, see Malinda Triller Doran’s post at the Dickinson Archives.
To learn more about how students at Dickinson are engaging with the legacy of Esther Popel in their own lives, visit the Popel Shaw Center for Race & Ethnicity.