Rosa Dixon-Bowser was a writer, educator, civic leader, and the first black teacher in Richmond, Virginia public school system.
Bowser was born a slave in Amelia County, Virginia to Henry Dixon, a carpenter, and Augusta A. Hawkins, a domestic servant. The family moved to Richmond after being freed to start a new life. Her father enrolled her in public school where she received instruction from northern teachers of the Freedmen’s Bureau.
After being identified as a student with great potential, the superintendent of the Freedmen’s Bureau chose her to attend teaching training at the Richmond Normal and High School. Bowser went on to graduate second of her class in 1872. However, she remained on at the school a second year to study Latin, Greek, and teaching strategies.
She passed the teacher examination in 1872 and began her teaching career shortly after. She married James Herndon Bowser, who was also a teacher and had been valedictorian in her class while at Richmond Colored Normal School. He died from complications of tuberculosis on April 25, 1881.
In 1883, the city school board appointed Bowser to teach in the primary grades at Navy Hill School. She went on to become supervisor of the teachers in Richmond at Baker School and by 1896 she was serving as a principal for men in nigh school. Bowser died in 1931 from complications due to diabetes.