March 31, 2021

Writing in Support of Renaming Middle School After Shirley Satterfield

To the Editor:

This letter supports renaming John Witherspoon Middle School after Shirley Satterfield.

Ms. Satterfield was my high school guidance counselor at Hightstown High School, in Hightstown, New Jersey. As I considered what to write about Ms. Satterfield, or Auntie Shirley, as we call her, I had to think through how to discuss such a lovely and sweet woman in words.

The easy thing is to write about her number of accomplishments. I am sure many will address that. All one needs to do is type in “Satterfield” and “Princeton” in Google, and you will find several pages documenting her good works. Or you could just look at her children Tracy, a successful guidance counselor, and Dawn, one of the best legal minds in California.

I could speak to her various efforts to preserve the history of African Americans in Princeton, New Jersey, and throughout the state. Her family’s personal history is filled with accomplishment and is also well documented. You can find Ms. Satterfield’s work in a number of periodicals, at various institutions that she has taught, and if you are given the privilege, throughout her home which highlights the history of her family.

Ms. Satterfield represents the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These qualities are fundamentals of a strong person and a good Christian. Ms. Satterfield taught these values through her words and actions. Ms. Satterfield is what generations ago would call a race woman, someone who strongly advocates for the rights of African American people in all that she does.

I can say without a doubt that I would not be where I am today  — a college and law school graduate having held various senior positions in the legal and business world — if it weren’t for Ms. Satterfield. As importantly, she showed me how the fruits of the spirit can work in my life. She also taught me how to advocate for, at all times and in all ways, African Americans, and our history. 

John Witherspoon’s history, founding president of College of New Jersey; delegate to the Continental Congress; and State Legislature of New Jersey is well documented. His legacy will always be connected to New Jersey, Princeton, and to this country. His good deeds and his personal history will be open to history for debate. However, Ms. Satterfield’s spirit is indelibly etched in the hearts of those who were fortunate enough to be loved and educated by such a decent and wonderful human being. Her legacy, although completely different than that of John Witherspoon, has spread throughout this earth by those she has taught and loved. Like Witherspoon, she should not be forgotten.

I pray that this committee will see fit to name this middle school after Ms. Shirley Satterfield.

Ali K. Wilson
Kensington Avenue, Trenton