The metro area labor movement lost one of its most outspoken leaders Sunday night when Washington Teachers Union president Elizabeth Davis died in a car crash.
Davis had been “at the forefront of public education advocacy and reform, leading the WTU’s transformation into a social justice, solution-driven organization dedicated to advancing and promoting quality education for all children,” WTU said in a release Monday morning. Davis worked hard at “improving teaching and learning conditions, and aggressively amplifying the voice of teachers in the dialogue around issues of teaching and learning,” the union added. “We are confident that her legacy will continue to shape the WTU as well as education across the District.”
“Elizabeth Davis fought every single day, not just for her members, but for all the city’s students and parents,” said Metro Washington Council president Dyana Forester. “As a DC parent myself, and also as a lifelong city resident and labor activist, sister Davis was a constant inspiration to me and to so many others. The thoughts and prayers of the Metro Washington Council go out to her family, her union and to all whose lives were touched by Liz. Her loss is shared by the entire local labor community and we shall carry on her legacy of battling for justice even as we mourn her passing.” Davis was a longtime member of the Metro Council's Executive Board.
The first time Davis stood up to D.C. school administrators was in the 1960s, The Washington Post reported. “Davis, then a teenager, staged a walkout at Eastern High to protest the lack of African American history and culture in her school’s curriculum. Hundreds of students joined her. And it worked, she said. The curriculum changed.” “That was the beginning,” Davis told the Post in an interview in February. “It was exciting. It was exhilarating. We were organizing.” Memorial service details will be forthcoming.
NOTE: This story has been updated (8:48pm 4/5/21); photos updated, including: Davis at a rally at Freedom Plaza on April 25, 2019; photo by Chris Garlock/Union City; Davis with Dyana Forester; Davis with WPFW host Daniel del Pielago and The Dramatics; rallying to stop the privatization and union busting of United Medical Center; with WTU members and staff of Cesar Chavez schools, fighting for fairness for charter school educators.