Josephine Groves Holloway became the first African American professional worker at the Cumberland Valley Girl Scout Council (CVGSC) in Nashville in 1944. She began her interest in girl scouting in 1923, when, as a recent graduate of Fisk University, she chose scouting as her means of “girls’ work” at Bethlehem Center, a Nashville social settlement house.
After her marriage to Guerney Holloway, she resigned this work, but remained committed to scouting. When her oldest daughter turned six in 1933, Holloway asked Nashville’s Girl Scout council to register a troop, but the council declined, citing the high cost of maintaining separate facilities for blacks. Holloway organized an unofficial troop, enlisted friends to start new troops, and continued to seek official status.
In 1942 the growing number of “Negro” troops forced the council to recognize them. By 1944, when African Americans accounted for 15 percent of Nashville’s Girl Scouts, the council hired Holloway as field advisor. Her troops, soon numbering forty, thrived on a segregated basis. Integration of the council and troops began in 1951, when the council moved Holloway’s office into its own building; in 1962 it abolished its separate “Negro” district. Integrated camps soon followed. Years later, Holloway expressed some ambivalence about the end of separate Girl Scouting programs, saying that integration lessened her girls’ exposure to “examples of black strength and pride.” (1) Holloway retired in 1963. The CVGSC gave her special recognition at their 1976 Bicentennial celebration and in 1990 constructed a permanent gallery at its headquarters for the display of her memorabilia. Holloway died December 7, 1988, at the age of ninety.