D. Jim Crow Era


The dual system of education for Whites and Blacks was developed and expanded in the South between 1890 and 1954. Despite efforts to avoid White influences, philanthropy remained an important part of Black education. In the early years of the twentieth century, public education for Blacks received significant contributions from philanthropists. Also during this period, Booker T. Washington's plan "... to establish an educational program for Negroes that would be acceptable to the South was widely discussed." Southern states capitalized upon these facts and soon introduced inequality in their support of Negro and White education. Segregation advocates reasoned that separate institutions for Blacks could exist because of the continued support from private donators. Thus, efforts toward creating mixed-race schools were quickly thwarted.


Further, the United States Supreme Court gave its approval to Jim Crow segregation beginning with its decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which said that separate facilities were legal as long as they were equal. Following Plessy, between 1896 and 1930, only three cases involving Negro education came before the United States Supreme Court. These cases did not directly challenge school segregation, but instead sought to clarify the implications of the separate but equal doctrine. Even so, the Court did not grant relief to the Black plaintiffs. In the 1940's, the Court forced states to take seriously the requirement of "equal" in the separate but equal formulation-- at least for higher education. In Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, the United States Supreme Court reversed the Supreme Court of Missouri which held that the laws of Missouri did not entitle Blacks to be admitted as students in the University of Missouri because the laws provided for the separation of Blacks and Whites in higher education. While the lower court in Missouri ruled that such a denial was valid under the doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson, the United States Supreme Court reversed the decision on the grounds that no Black law school existed. Following this case, graduate schools in the South were opened to Blacks. Unfortunately, Black admission into White graduate schools was short-lived as the expansion of state-supported Black graduate and professional schools increased.


These segregated institutions operated in a "separate but equal" fiction. Heightened support for Black graduate and professional schools was only a ploy to deny Blacks admission to White schools. Blacks found that these tax-supported schools were not being maintained properly. There was no publicly financed Black school comparable to its White counterpart as the system relegated blacks to an inferior educational status. Per capita spending on Black students in public elementary and secondary schools averaged one-third of the spending on White students. White teachers in eleven former confederate states were paid $118.00 as opposed to Black teachers who were paid $73.00. Despite efforts to change the condition of segregated schools, Blacks faced the realities of an unequal educational system. Thus, efforts to reverse Jim Crow segregation became the focus of the African American community.