Cathern Davis Flory, educator, dies

CHICAGO — Cathern Davis Flory died here April 2 at 84. A memorial was held at the DuSable Museum of African American History. After the service, her ashes were spread among the bushes and flowers that beautify the museum she helped to build.

Flory was married to Ishmael Flory, a veteran union organizer and activist and a leader of the Communist Party in Illinois, who preceded in her in death.

Flory received her early education in Seattle. At the age of 12, she and her family moved to Chicago. Her mother, Maxima Wilson Davis, was the first Black woman graduate of the University of Washington in 1928 and taught high school until her death in 1949.

Flory continued her family’s tradition of education, community service and personal development through teaching and travel. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and history from Fisk University, where she was taught by James Welden Johnson and influenced by Mary McLeod Bethune. She later earned a master’s degree in education from Chicago Teachers College, now Chicago State University.

Her continuing education included study at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, DePaul University, Roosevelt University, the Institute of Psychoanalysis, the University of Perugia in Italy, the University of Madrid in Spain, the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and the University of Grenoble in France.

In the Chicago Public School system, Flory taught kindergarten through 8th grade. In 1969 she joined the faculty of Malcolm X College and served as chairperson of the Department of Humanities until her retirement in 1990.

Flory inspired two generations of students to study African American history and culture and to learn more about the labor movement. W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson and Dr. Margaret Burroughs were among her many friends. For many years she made annual visits to Africa and came back with rich materials for her classes.

Her belief in socialism never faltered. She was a great friend of the Soviet Union and a crusader for peace. At the World Peace Conference in Paris, she exposed the U.S. government’s conspiracy against Angela Davis and appealed for international support for Davis’ just struggle for freedom.

Flory was an active member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the National Alliance against Racist and Political Repression and the South Side Community Art Center, among many other organizations. She was a founding member of Women Helping Women at Malcolm X College and served as chair of the Malcolm X chapter of the Cook County College Teachers union for several years.

Donations in memory of Flory may be sent to the DuSable Museum, 740 E 56th St., Chicago IL 60637.