The award was established on Bryant’s 90th birthday, and students have been selected by a panel led by Bryant, and have represented Lebanon, Watertown and Wilson Central high schools.
Bryant died April 30, and donations will honor Bryant’s legacy and impact on education.
Bryant, 94, was the first African-American teacher to teach in a predominantly white school in Lebanon when she agreed to teach at Lebanon Junior High School in the 1960s.
Donations can be made via Facebook at facebook.com/donate/21417604916868, or by mail to 321 E. Market St., Lebanon, TN 37087. Checks should be payable to Wilson County Civic League with “Hattie Bryant Award” on the memo line.
All donations will solely go to the award fund.
Bryant, the sixth of seven children, was born Sept. 29, 1923 in Lebanon to James and Hattie Crutchfield. Bryant said her parents only completed the fourth and eighth grades, so they emphasized the importance of education.
After she graduated Wilson County Training School, Bryant went on to attend Agricultural and Industrial College, now known as Tennessee State University, in Nashville.
At A&I, Bryant decided she wanted to major in home economics. She had already completed several courses in elementary education, though, when the superintendent from Lebanon called her up. He wanted her to leave school to return to Lebanon as a teacher at the Market Street school.
She taught at the school for 20 years until she received a call from the superintendent Feb. 10, 1964 – the day the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The call resulted in Bryant transferring to Lebanon Junior High School, where she stayed for 13 years until her retirement. In a time known for its turbulence, Bryant described a fairly smooth transition.
“I was never mistreated to any degree by the faculty,” said Bryant. “Some of it was snubbing, but it was polite snubbing.”
She said that when she first arrived, teachers would often leave the room when she’d walk into the faculty room, but over time that stopped.
She said she never felt any resentment from parents.
Winfree Bryant Middle School is named in her honor, along with Cordell Winfree, who died last year.
As she spoke from the stage at the Bill and June Heydel Fine Arts Center at Cumberland University in 2015 – a school she, as an African American was not allowed to attend as a young adult – she said African-American youth need to take more advantage of the educational opportunities they have today.
“The biggest challenge that I see is making sure you get an education of some kind,” said Bryant. “You still have an obligation to yourself and to your community to better yourself.”