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WICKER, AMANDA

AMANDA (HUNT) WICKER (1900-September 19, 1987) was born in Sandersville, Georgia and was raised by her mother, who was widowed when Wicker was very young. Wicker was one of seven children. She graduated from Tuskegee Normal School for Teachers in 1923. The following year, Wicker was an apprentice at the Clarke Training School in Washington, DC, where she learned the dressmaking trade under Mrs. Addie Clarke. Wicker married McDuffy Wicker and the couple moved to Cleveland in 1924.

In 1924 Wicker opened the Clarke School of Dressmaking and Fashion Design at 9202 Cedar Avenue, just a few blocks east of her home at 8911 Cedar Avenue. The school, named after her Washington, DC mentor, became an integral part of the largely African-American neighborhood. The Clarke School produced student fashion shows at Central Senior High School, and offered scholarships to young women who were recommended by their high school sewing teachers.

The "Book of Gold" Fashion Shows, which were named in reference to a line in James Leigh Hunt's poem, Abou Ben Adhem, became an annual community affair beginning in 1939. The shows, which were held at a variety of locations throughout the City of Cleveland, were highly theatrical events that incorporated elaborate stage sets, numerous models, and live orchestra music. The "Book of Gold" Fashion Shows were accompanied by professionally printed program books, which were often fittingly sheathed in gold cardstock.

The numerous awards Wicker received during her career are evidence of her reputation as a civic leader. The City of Cleveland presented her with an "Honor Award" in 1962 in recognition of her diligent work toward improving the Cedar Avenue neighborhood, the AFRICAN-AMERICAN community, and city as a whole. In 1965 she was presented with an "Award of Honor" by the Cleveland Business League, and in 1974 she received a "Certificate of Appreciation" from the Cleveland Public Schools for her work with PRIDE (Program Review for Improvement, Development, and Expansion in Vocational Education).

Wicker retired from her role as head of the school in 1979; the school continued to operate under its new owner, Mattie Hemphill, until the late 1980s. Wicker remained involved in the Clarke School peripherally following her retirement, and frequently presented scholarship awards to students from the Amanda Wicker Scholarship Fund, which was established in 1978 by several of her friends and former students. Wicker died in San Francisco, California at the home of a niece on September 19, 1987 at the age of 87. Funeral services for Wicker were held in Cleveland on September 29, 1987 at Antioch Baptist Church on Cedar Avenue.


WRHS, The Clarke School of Dressmaking and Fashion Design Records.