Houston's Freedmen Uncovering Houston

Pinkie Yates

Pinkie Yates / 1902

Birth and Family

Pinkie Yates was born to Reverend John Henry “Jack” Yates and Harriet Willis Yates in Houston, Texas. Her exact birth year is unknown and different sources list it as anywhere from 1879 to 1884. Census records give us some insight as the 1880 and 1920 census records list her as 3 and 40 years old, respectively.

She was born into the prominent Yates family which I’ve written about in a separate post. Her father, John Henry “Jack” Yates was the founder of Houston’s Freedmen’s Town and was formerly enslaved himself, along with his wife Harriet.

Pinkie’s mother, Harriet, passed away in 1887 and her father remarried only a year later. After losing her mother at such a young age, Pinkie understandably did not take well to her new stepmother, Annie. As a result of the tension within the household, Pinkie, and her sister Nannie, were raised by their older sisters.

From Educated to Educator

Pinkie Yates (lower left) with 3 associates / 1897 – 1905

Pinkie was sent to Atlanta’s Spelman College (formerly Seminary) and graduated in 1900. After graduation, Pinkie began her almost 50+ year teaching career in Matagorda and Brazoria Counties. In 1903, she returned to Houston with the intention of teaching there.

She taught at Colored High School (later known as Booker T. Washington High School) from 1905 to 1907 and At this point, she met a Mr. B. F. Henderson and they married in 1910. They moved to the Washington D.C./Virginia area, where Pinkie found work as a teacher.

Unfortunately, the marriage did not last and for unknown reasons, they divorced only a few years later in 1915. At this point, Pinkie returned to Houston and married a Robert Bridgeman, a faculty member of Colored High School, in 1916.

Between 1915 and 1921she taught as a substitute teacher, with the last 3 years done at Glen Cove School in Houston’s Third Ward.

In 1921, she began teaching at the Gregory School in Houston’s Freedmen’s Town.

Nearing the end of the 1920s, Pinkie enrolled at Prairie View A&M University and graduated with a B.S. in 1930. In 1937, she and Robert Bridgeman divorced and Pinkie remained unmarried for the rest of her life.

Pinkie Yates / PVAMU Graduation Photo
The Teal Studio / 1930


Pinkie remained at the Gregory School for over 20 years until a glaucoma diagnosis forced her to retire. She left us with her legacy in July 1962, when she passed away due to a stroke.

Throughout her long life, Pinkie Yates remained dedicated to educating thousands of Black children between Texas and the DMV area. She planted seeds in countless children who, with the cards stacked against them, went on to impact our world, and their communities, in many ways. Some even became teachers themselves. In other words, Pinkie’s impact is immeasurable.

However, it is apparent that, like her father, she left Houston and the world at large a much better place than she found it.

All photos courtesy of the Houston Public Library.

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