Mary Ellen Vaughn

A leader for education and political awareness in the African American community of Murfreesboro

On the intersection of South Highland Avenue,and Vaughn Street lies the historical marker for Mary Ellen Vaughn. The marker sits where Vaughn Training school once stood and its inscription states:
Born in Alabama, in 1893 Mary Ellen Vaughn, a graduate of Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), Chicago Business College, and Tennessee A & I College (now Tennessee State University), lived in Murfreesboro, Tennessee,the last thirty years of her life. In 1920 she founded the Murfreesboro Union, the city's first African-American newspaper.

Thirteen years later, in 1933 she founded and operated the Vaughn Training School for African American adults. As a nurse, Vaughn worked for the Commonwealth Fund to improve rural health in Rutherford County and was a Civil Rights advocate. Vaughn Street is named in her honor.

Vaughn was born in Montgomery Alabama in 1893, but found her way to Murfreesboro in 1920 to help take care of her uncle, William Bibb. From there she began to leave an impact on the community, namely through the creation of Rutherford Counties first African American newspaper, The Murfreesboro Monitor, which published obituaries, births, events, and advertisements from individuals from the African American community.

Vaughn Training school was a segregated school which taught adults basic skills regarding reading, writing, and the alphabet, but also included vocational skills important in building a community such as cosmetology or sewing for 25 cents a week. Vaughn’s motivation for opening the school was, in her words, “to elevate the race to high ideals, to lift them up and encourage them to live better lives.” The school closed in 1951 due to Vaughn’s declining health and she passed in 1953. Vaughn was buried in the northern area of Rutherford County in section M of the Evergreen Cemetery, having her final rest be alongside many people formerly enslaved at Oakland Mansion.



Intersection of South Highland Avenue and Vaughn Street