Monday, January 17, 2022

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Article Index

C. Post Civil War

 

Following the end of the Civil War, the pressures to contain and control the large numbers of freed Blacks led to a pooling of public as well as private funding sources to contribute to the education of African Americans. Citizens of Pennsylvania provided both public and private support of Negro schools. "The chief contribution of the Reconstruction government was to set a precedent for the democratic right of all people to public tax-supported education." The Freedman's Bureau (1865-70) sought to prepare former slaves for freedom. The Bureau was instrumental in giving financial support to philanthropists, freedmen and states to establish a system of education for Blacks. Over 4,000 schools were established by the Bureau and approximately 250,000 Black students attended. By the end of its five-year term, the Bureau's expenditures totaled $3.5 million (this amount includes $1.5 million donated by benevolent organizations and $1 million from Blacks).

 

Under the provisions of the second Morrill Act of 1890, land-grant colleges for Blacks were established which provided a framework for state-sponsored institutions of higher education and assured that land-grant funds for Negro education existed. A total of sixteen Historically Black Institutions and Colleges (HBIC's) were funded under this program. These institutions offered largely agricultural and industrial training for Blacks and enrolled as few as twelve to as many as 650 Black students by 1915. HBIC's evolved into vital educational resources for the nation and the principal means of access to education for African American men and women and still exist today. The goals of land-grant legislation were validated when the Supreme Court decided Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. The decision legitimated "separate but equal" facilities for Blacks and Whites. The Supreme Court's endorsement of officially mandated segregation necessitated the establishment of separate Black institutions and also made it possible to use public funds to support these Black institutions.

 

During this time, philanthropy not only aided materially in providing funds for the education of Blacks by inspiring the Reconstruction legislature of the South to provide for public education programs, but also contributed to the reconstruction of the Black identity in the eyes of American society. Gradually, White attitudes about Black personhood and citizenship seemed to transform as Blacks gained access to education. In 1865, slavery was outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment and only three years later, in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was invoked to protect the rights of freed slaves. Lastly, in 1870, Blacks gained the right to vote through the Fifteenth Amendment. During this period abolitionists and philanthropists fought side by side with Blacks to attain liberty and education for African Americans.

 

Even still, many Black leaders were disturbed by these philanthropic efforts because then, as today, no advice was solicited from African American parents or educators on ways to educate the African American community. Instead, "the emphasis in the United States at that time was on educative quantity rather than quality." Massive resources went into establishing an education system for former slaves, but some Black leaders felt that the quality and substance of the education system inadequately served the needs of the Black community.

 

African American leaders began to take the lead in developing different and creative approaches to teaching Black youths. Black pioneer Frederick Douglass was instrumental in the early nineteenth century as he was one of the first African Americans to stress the view that manual training would help Blacks become self-sufficient in seeking employment. Other examples include the efforts of Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskeegee Institute in Alabama, in developing independent schools throughout the South and those of W.E.B. Du Bois and Carter G. Woodson, who laid the foundation to change the curricula in elementary schools to include contributions by African Americans. Black leaders did not always agree about educational priorities and what type of education Blacks should seek. Langston University, one of the land-grant institutions, found itself in the midst of this debate as controversies ensued over the University's purpose. Specifically, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois voiced differing opinions about Negro education. Washington asserted principles of thriftiness, patience and industrial training for the masses of freed Blacks. In 1895, addressing a multitude of Blacks in Atlanta, he asserted that "the Negro should tread the earth humbly and with love for his white betters if he were just allowed to make a modest living." Washington felt that Blacks needed to develop skills in domestics, manual labor and agriculture. W.E.B. DuBois, on the other hand, challenged Washington's values and methods of industrial training for Blacks. Instead, DuBois advocated a well-educated, intellectual "Talented Tenth" of Blacks who would then lead the Black race into higher civilization. He sought political and social equality for African Americans. DuBois declared that Blacks could not depend upon White leadership to chart their course.

 

Other Blacks who contributed to the intellectual foundation for the African American educational movement include Lucy Laney, founder of The Haines Normal and Industrial Institute of Georgia; Mary McCleod Bethune, founder of The Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Girls; and Nannie Helen Burroughs, creator of the National Training School for Women and Girls. These talented Blacks remained in Black neighborhoods and served these Black institutions. Black churches were also pivotal in developing a tradition of education in the South. Between 1847-1907, churches gave over two million dollars to educational efforts and sponsored over one hundred schools at different educational levels. The African Methodist Episcopal and African American Baptist churches provided regular funding for African American independent schools. By 1897, African Americans had established and controlled eighteen colleges, thirty-four academies and fifty-one high schools and seminaries. However, that control was not without a price. Some schools were forced to eliminate academic prepatory courses or to subordinate them to the level of "industrial" education and were required to use the word "industrial" in their name before funds from corporate philanthropic sources were issued. Although these self-help institutions were operated by African American churches, the content of the curricula offered in these schools was largely influenced and determined by European ecclesiastical organizations. In 1932, the First "University" of Islam was started in Detroit, Michigan by Fard Muhammed. According to Hakim Rashid of the School of Education at Howard University, "from the 1930's until the early 1960's, the University of Islam stood virtually alone in its efforts to provide African American children with a world view that stressed self-knowledge, self-reliance and self-discipline." Any Black institutions that depended upon receiving funding were required to conform to a set of ideals dictated by their European sponsors.

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