Rachel B. Noel

Rachel B. Noel
BornJanuary 15, 1918
DiedFebruary 4, 2008(2008-02-04) (aged 90)
Alma materHampton Institute
Fisk University
Occupation(s)Educator, politician, civil rights leader

Rachel Bassette Noel (January 15, 1918 – February 4, 2008) was an American educator, politician and civil rights leader in Denver, Colorado. She is known for the "Noel Resolution", a 1968 plan to integrate the Denver city school district, and her work to implement that plan, as well as other work on civil rights. When elected to the Denver Public Schools Board of Education in 1965, Noel was the first African-American woman elected to public office in Colorado. In 1996, Noel was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame.

She was born in Hampton, Virginia to college-educated parents; her father was a doctor. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Hampton Institute and Fisk University, respectively. She and her husband, a physician from Jackson, Mississippi, moved to Denver after he finished his residency.

Personal life[edit]

Rachel Bassette was born in 1918 in Hampton, Virginia to parents who were both college graduates. Her father, A. W. E. Bassette Jr., was a lawyer. From an early age, her parents emphasized the importance of education. Bassette graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree from Hampton Institute (now known as Hampton University) and earned a master's degree in sociology from Fisk University, both historically black universities.

In October 1942, she married Dr. Edmond F. Noel (1916-1986) from Jackson, Mississippi, whom she had met at Fisk. Born in Holmes County, Mississippi and reared in Jackson, he was named for a half-uncle, Edmond Favor Noel, governor of Mississippi, serving 1908 to 1912. The African-American physician and European-American politician were from different lines of descendants of Leland Noel, a major white planter in Holmes County before the American Civil War. Noel completed his undergraduate degree at Howard University and got his medical degree at Fisk.

Edmond Noel served as a medical officer in the Army during World War II, from 1942 to April 1946. After he completed his residency, the Noel couple moved to Denver, Colorado in 1949. It was during years of the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the West. Edmond Noel was the first African American to practice medicine in Denver. He was affiliated with Rose Hospital, a new hospital founded by the Jewish community. He was the first African American to have staff privileges at a hospital in Denver. He also set up his own practice in the Five Points community.

Together they had a son, Edmond "Buddy" Noel Jr., born in 1946, and daughter, Angela Noel, born in 1950. Buddy graduated from Dartmouth College and Harvard University Law, and practices as a lawyer in Denver.

Rachel Bassette Noel became increasingly active in civil rights and school issues in Denver. (See below).

Her husband Edmond Noel died in 1986. In her last years, Noel moved from Denver to Oakland, California in 2007 to live with her daughter. Noel died on February 4, 2008.[1] She is survived by her two children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Civic life[edit]

Noel became active in civic affairs and politics in the 1960s, working to integrate local schools and ensure that minorities had equal opportunities. In 1965, Noel was elected as the first African American to serve on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education. She was the first African-American woman elected to public office in Colorado.[2]

She presented what became known as the Noel Resolution to the Board of Education on April 25, 1968, and called for the Denver area school district superintendent to develop a plan for integration, providing equal educational opportunity for all children. Public opposition was high, and Noel and her family received many threatening phone calls and hate mail. The resolution was passed in February 1970.[2][3]

Noel was a professor at Metropolitan State College of Denver, where she founded the African-American Studies Department in 1971, chairing it until 1980. Noel was also a member of the Chancellor's Advisory Committee for the Health Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder and University of Colorado at Denver. She was appointed as a Commissioner of the Denver Housing Authority[4]

Noel served on the Advisory Board of the United States Civil Rights Commission.[4]

Legacy and honors[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rachel Basette Noel (Obituary)". University of Colorado. 13 March 2008. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Rachel Bassette Noel". Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  3. ^ Woods, Katherine (1998). "Chapter 5: Park Hill, Denver" (PDF). Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development • Office of Policy Development and Research.
  4. ^ a b c "Black History Month: Rachel B. Noel". This Week @ Mero. Metropolitan State College of Denver. 9 February 2005. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  5. ^ "2011 Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship2011 Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship". Metropolitan State College of Denver.
  6. ^ "Who is Rachel B. Noel?". Rachel B Noel Middle School. Retrieved 26 September 2011.

Further reading[edit]