From left: Duke Ellington School of the Arts Chief Executive Officer Tia Powel Harris, Peggy Cooper Cafritz, co-founder of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and former president of D.C.'s school board, Ellington freshman Makeal Exum, comedian Dave Chappelle and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser lift hands in celebration at the Northwest school on Sept. 29, after Chappelle was presented with the Key to the City and gifted the school with an Emmy he received for an appearance on "Saturday Night Live" earlier this year. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)
From left: Duke Ellington School of the Arts Chief Executive Officer Tia Powel Harris, Peggy Cooper Cafritz, co-founder of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and former president of D.C.'s school board, Ellington freshman Makeal Exum, comedian Dave Chappelle and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser lift hands in celebration at the Northwest school on Sept. 29, after Chappelle was presented with the Key to the City and gifted the school with an Emmy he received for an appearance on "Saturday Night Live" earlier this year. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a renowned civil rights activist, educator and philanthropist in D.C., died Sunday in a District hospital, The Washington Post reported. She was 70.

Cafritz attended George Washington University, where she received both her undergraduate degree in political science and a law degree.

Cafritz is perhaps best known in the D.C. area for founding the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which evolved from its 1974 start as a summer arts workshop for minority children to become part of the D.C. Public Schools system.

She was also the first publicly elected president of the D.C. Board of Education.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called Cafritz “one of Washington’s most inspiring and generous visionaries and activists.”

“Her belief in our young people and her dogged determination to break down barriers was matched by the extraordinary persistence and leadership needed to bring her vision to life,” Bowser said. “And because of Peggy, thousands of students have had, and will continue to have, the opportunity to grow and develop in an educational environment that supports their unique talents and aspirations. Her legacy will be felt by generations to come.”

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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