One of the most influential teachers of Clarksville’s Black youth
Joseph Roberts was one of the most influential teachers of Clarksville’s Black youth, helping teenagers and their future children navigate education hurdles during and after the civil rights movement.
He was also an avid photographer and community organizer.
Roberts, a 1947 graduate of Burt High School, served as a medical and laboratory technician with the U.S. Army. He obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tennessee State and worked as a cancer research assistant at Vanderbilt University.
In 1957, Roberts arrived at the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System. “Mr. Joe” taught a variety of science classes, including chemistry, biology and physics. He later served as assistant principal, principal and system-wide administrator, as well as president of the Burt Alumni Association.
Roberts once told elementary school students they should consider themselves blessed to have the freedom to attend school, as well as to chose the school they want to attend.
In 1991, Roberts retired after 34 years of service. He died in 2017 at age 88.