Every now and again, a person comes along whose life truly exudes the compassion and love of Christ. One such woman was Carrie Steele. An orphaned child herself, and born into slavery, Steele knew what it was like to feel the pain of abandonment, and gave her life to being a mother to unwanted children. In addition to this, she has left a legacy as a key figure in the fight toward race equality.
Steele’s work of caring for the defenseless began while working as a maid for Atlanta’s Union railroad station. She would often find abandoned children left at the train station, and proceed to take these children to her small home and care for them. Over time, her own capacity to care for the number of children she had taken in became stretched, and she began laboring toward the building of an establishment for the children.
She worked tirelessly and used various means to raise funds in order to build an orphan home, including the writing and promotion of her own autobiography, fundraising in the community, and finally, the selling of her own home. At last, the woman who made $100 per month working for the railroad station managed to gather the $5,000 needed to construct her orphan home, and it was dedicated in 1892.
The passion for these children ran beyond simply pulling them off the street, but bled into what we call Wholistic Care. She recognized that without the proper care, these orphans would end up no better off than at the first. As someone who had served as a volunteer probation officer, she understood that orphans were prone to fall into lives of crime, and in the effort to prevent this, she structured the home in such a way as to care for all of a child’s needs and prepare them for a successful life ahead.
Steele made the spiritual formation of the children a top priority. E. B. Carter makes note in his book The Black Side that orphans in Carrie’s home were “taught, first of all, to pray.” Bible study was also a part of the regular lives of the children. She would also ensure that the children would be taught practical skills and be instilled with a strong work ethic. As Tevi Henson put it in an article from the New Georgia Encyclopedia, “The orphanage was created to serve as a place for homeless African American children to be educated, study religion, and learn skills in order to gain employment.”
Steele was not only a notable figure in orphan history, but in the civil rights movement as well. She was fighting for young boys and girls of color when racial tensions were still extremely prevalent. This home would become a significant help for those underprivileged children who would fall prey to the highest level of discrimination and marginalization. Steele was truly helping the most helpless & outcast ones, and thus served in the ultimate sense to advance the cause of racial equality as well.
Carrie Steele Logan (her married name) developed a high acclaim and appreciation within the society of Atlanta, Georgia. Many in the community, including the local police force affectionately named her “aunt Carrie.” Her gravestone is inscribed with the phrase: “The Mother of Orphans. She has done what she could.” The labor of this woman who poured her life out for the defenseless has not been forgotten by those affected by her life, and, chiefly, by our heavenly “Father to the fatherless”.
- Notable Black American Women, Book II - by Jessie Carney Smith
- The Carrie Steele-Pitts Home And The Church Partners In Mission – by Albert J. H. Sloan, II