At the time of her birth it was illegal for blacks to read; however with the assistance of Ms. Campbell, the slave owner’s sister, she was able to start reading as early as the age of four. Her education would continue and in 1869 she entered Atlanta University.
After graduating she spent some time as a teacher before deciding to open a school of her own. The school she opened would be the first in Augusta, Georgia for black children. With an original class size of only six, Laney managed to stimulate interest within the community enough that by the end of the second year the schools roster had jumped to 234 students. With the increase in students came a need for more funding. Looking to help expand her school she turned to the Presbyterian Church Convention and pleaded her case there in front of her peers. Her request was initially denied and she was sent on her way; however upon returning home one of the attendee’s, a Mrs. Francine E.H. Haines, declared an interest in her school and donated $10,000. With this money Laney was able to fund a proper school and decided to change the name of her school to The Haines Normal and Industrial Institute.
Besides her school for black children, Lucy Craft Laney also opened the first black kindergarten and the first black nursing school in Augusta, Georgia.
Laney High School and the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History in Augusta are named in her honor. There is also a public school in Minneapolis, Minnesota that bears her name. Lincoln University, PA first dormitory built for women in 1970 was named in honor of Lucy Laney.