1 "Being in the Field of Education and also Being a Negro...Seems...Tragic": Black Teachers in the Jim Crow South Adam Fairclough The Journal of American History, Vol. 87, No. 1. (Jun., 2000), pp Stable URL: The Journal of American History is currently published by Organization of American Historians. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. The JSTOR Archive is a trusted digital repository providing for long-term preservation and access to leading academic journals and scholarly literature from around the world. The Archive is supported by libraries, scholarly societies, publishers, and foundations. It is an initiative of JSTOR, a not-for-profit organization with a mission to help the scholarly community take advantage of advances in technology. For more information regarding JSTOR, please contact Sat Mar 8 18:24:
2 "Being in the Field of E and ATso Being a Negro. Tragic": Black Teachers thejim Crow South Adam Fairclough "Teachers, you are the shapers of thought and the molders of sentiment, not of this age and of this generation alone, but of ages and generations to come. You are making history by those you teach.... You are the few that are moulding the masses." This ringing exhortation by Rev. G. M. Elliott to the 1888 meeting of the Alabama State Teachers Association (ASTA) typified the missionary fervor that teachers brought to their work in the nineteenth century. For black teachers, education brought the added duty of dispelling the ignorance, immorality, and superstition that, many believed, slavery had bequeathed to the race-of leading and elevating a benighted people. Elliott, president of the ASTA, reinforced the point the following year: "What the Negro in America is to be, and what the Negro in Africa is to be, and in short what the Negro in the world is to be, we are called to be instrumental in deciding."' The people in the forefront of the struggle for education played a critical role in defining, articulating, and advancing the aspirations of the race. Mass illiteracy among the freedmen made teachers a natural source of race leadership, and the organization of schools helped blacks define themselves as communities. Scholars Adam Fairclough is professor of American History at the University of East Anglia. He began this project during a fellowship year at the National Humanities Center in I wish to thank the NHC and its staff for their kindness and generosity. The University of Leeds provided paid leave for part of that year. The financial support of the British Academy facilitated research in Nashville, Birmingham, Tuskegee, and Jackson. Dave Bowman of the University of Texas, David Carlton of Vanderbilt University, and Tony Badger of the University of Cambridge provided welcome invitations to try out some of these ideas before sympathetic audiences. I wish to thank the Lamar Lectures Committee of mercer University for inviting me to their campus in November 1999 to develop some of these ideas at greater length under the title "Teaching Equality: Black Schools in the Age of Jim Crow." Glenda Gilmore and the other, anonymous readers of the Journal of American History supplied critiques of the manuscript that proved helpful. The superbly efficient editorial staff of the Jourrzal provided invaluable assistance in the preparation and revision of the manuscript. David Thelen, formerly editor, offered detailed, constructive suggestions, as well as patient encouragement. Susan Armeny, the assistant editor, eliminated many a solecism and took innulnerable rough edges off my prose. Readers may contact Fairclough at Adam.Fairc1oughOuea.ac.uk. ' minutes of the Seventh Annual Session of the Alabama State Teachers Association," April 11-13, 1888, box 30A, H. C. Trenholln Papers (Moorland-Spingarn Library, Howard University, Washington, D.C.);"Minutes of the Eighth Annual Session of the Alabama State Teachers Association," April 10-12, 1889, ibid. The Journal of American History June
3 The Journal of American History June 2000 such as Betty Mansfield and James D. Anderson have demonstrated the importance of black teachers and black initiatives in founding freedmen's schools, redressing the overemphasis of previous historians on the work of northern white missionaries. Northern-educated blacks such as John Oliver, Thomas DeSaille Tucker, and John Wesley Cromwell began teaching in the missionary schools of Union-occupied Virginia as early as In the same year Clement Robinson, a graduate of Lincoln University, set up Virginia's first "normal school" for the training of black teachers. No sooner was Savannah liberated than blacks formed the Savannah Education Association, which swiftly raised eight hundred dollars and founded several schools. "It is wholly their own," noted Rev. John W. Alvord. "The officers of the Assoc. are all colored men. The teachers are all colored." In the rural areas, black people organized "freedmen's schools" and "Sunday schools," acting independently of northern whites. Black teachers outnumbered white ones very soon after the Civil War.2 When black men gained the vote, teachers provided political leadership. During Reconstruction, teacher-politicians such as Thomas W. Cardozo, Jonathan C. Gibbs, and James Walker Hood rose high in the ranks of the Republican party. After Reconstruction black teachers formed state associations that quizzed political candidates, lobbied state legislatures, and took positions on the leasing of convicts to private employers, temperance, and other issues of the day. ~eachkrs in the New South continued to be involved in party politics and some, such as Charles N. Hunter, Ezekiel E. Smith, and Richard R. Wright, held federal patronage jobs. Even after disfranchisement, black teachers strove for, and often attained, positions of community leadership. Along with ministers, they enjoyed prestige and wielded influence." The respect accorded teachers reflected the high value that blacks placed upon education. A determination to acquire formal knowledge has been one of the most striking features of the black struggle for equality. Slaves' clandestine efforts to understand the written word, the establishment of freedmen's schools during and after the Civil War, Booker T. Washington's crusade for "industrial education," the school-building campaign stimulated by the Rosenwald Fund, the fight for equalization and then integration of public schools led by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)-a11 were part of a constantly changing 2Betty Mansfield, "That Fatefill Class: Black Teachers of Virginia's Freedmen, " (Ph.D. diss., Catholic University of America, 1980), , ; james D. Anderson, The Educatiorz of Blacks in the Sozltl?, (Chapel Hill, 1998), 4-19; Jacqi~elille Jones, Soldiers of Light and Love: Northern Teachers and Georgia Blacks, (Athens, Ga., 1992), 75; Robert C. Morris, Reading, Riting, and Reconstructiorz: The Education of Freedmen in the South, (Chicago, 1982), 91; William Preston Vaughan, Schoolsfor All: The Blacks and Public Educatiorz in the South, (Lexington, Ky.,1974), Morris, Reading, Riting, and Reconstruction, 103-8; "Minutes of the Seventh Annual Session of the Alabama State Teachers Association"; minutes of the Eighth Annual Session of the Alabama State Teachers Association"; S. G. Atkins to Charles N. Hunter, Sept. 30, 1886, box 1, Charles N. Hunter Papers (Perkins Library, Duke University, Durham, N.C.); John H. Haley, Charles N. Hunter and Race Rel/rtiorzs in North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 1987), 34, 57; N. C. Newbold, Five North Carolina Negro Educators (Chapel Hill, 1939), ; Elizabeth Ross Haynes, "The Black Boy of Atlanta" (1952), in Elizabeth Ross Haynes, Unsung Heroes; The Black Boy ofatlanta; "Negroes in Domestic Service in the United States"(New York, 1997),
4 Black Teachers in the Jim Crow South 67 Valena C. Jones Junior High and Normal School, New Orleans, Teacher Veronica B. Hill, pictured with elementary school students, was a dedicated union and civil rights activist. Courtesy Special Collections, Earl k: Long Librarj University of New Orleans. but constantly waged struggle. In every period of their history in America, blacks knew that literacy and learning were essential to their freed~m.~ In the eyes of many historians, therefore, the connection between education and the black struggle for equality has been crystal clear. Henry Allen Bullock, in a sweeping history of black education published in 1967, argued that education functioned as the main lever "pushing the movement toward the complete emancipation of the Negro." In a more recent study focusing on North Carolina, James L. Leloudis described the segregated black schools of the New South as "vital bridges between the freedom struggles of the late nineteenth century and those of the midtwentieth." In short, the establishment of schools and colleges and the continual raising of standards uplifted the race and pointed it in the direction of equality. From this perspective, black teachers tilled the soil and planted the seeds of what 'On black appreciation of education and its genesis in slavery, see Brooks Dickens, "Negro Education in North Carolina during Reconstruction," Quarterly Reviezu of Higher Edz~catiof~ an2ong Negroes, 7 (Jan. 1939), 2-6; Mansfield, "That Fateful Class," 1-52; Anderson, Education of Blacks in the Sorith, ; and Thomas L. Webber, Deep like the Rivers: Edzication in ti7e Slave Qzia~ters, (New York, 1978).
5 The Journal of American History June 2000 eventually became a full-blown revolt against segregation and discrimination: the civil rights m~vement.~ To equate education with black empowerment, however, invites numerous objections. The most obvious is that education did not straightforwardly empower black southerners. For one thing, the development of black education in the South was not characterized by linear progress: it was slow and haphazard, and things sometimes went from bad to worse. In the early twentieth century, for example, black schools fell even further behind the standard of white schools. That educational disparities widened after blacks lost the right to vote underlines the point: black political power waned even though black literacy had increased. As J. Morgan Kousser has stressed, the fact that black schools improved is beside the point: "In the struggle for jobs, or, more broadly, for increased economic welfare, it is relative, not absolute, levels of education that count." Unequal education perpetuated inequa1ity.b During the Great Depression, social scientists and black intellectuals became increasingly skeptical about the liberating effects of formal education. Surveys compiled a grim picture of schools being held in decrepit structures-run-down churches and ramshackle Masonic halls-that lacked adequate lighting, heating, toilets, and washing facilities and even such basic items as desks and tables. In such places a lone teacher, usually a young woman with less than half a year's training past high school, struggled with classes of as many as seventy-five children spread over eight grades (the average class size in was forty-seven).' In a one-teacher school in Macon County, Georgia, the sociologist Arthur Raper asked a child named Booker T. Washington Williams for whom he was named. Neither he nor any of the other pupils knew. Even the teacher could not identify Booker T. Washington. In 1939, while researching An American Dilemma, the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal "hardly believed his eyes and his ears" when he questioned the students in a similar school. "No one could tell who the President of the United States was or even what the President was.... No one had heard of the NAACP." Asked about the Constitution of the United States, "all remained in solemn silence, until one bright boy helped us out, informing us that it was 'a newspaper in Atlanta."' Schooling was often "so perfunctory and meaningless," one report con- s Henry Allen Bullock, A History of Negro Educalion in the Son~17: From 1617 to the Present (Cambridge, Mass., 1967), vii-ix; James L. Leloudis, Schooling the New South: Pedagogy, SeK and Society in North Carolina, (Chapel Hill, 1996), 228. See also Michael R. Heintze, Private Bhck Colleges in Texns, (College Station, 1985), 11-13, 170; James M. McPherson, The Abolitionist Legacy: From Reconstruction to the NAACP (Princeton, 1995), ; Joe M. Richardson, Christian Reconstruction: The American Missionary Association and Sozithern Blacks, (Athens, Ga., 1986); and Anderson, Education of Bhcks in the South, qj.morgan Kousser, "Progressivism-For Middle-Class Whites Only: North Carolina Education, ,"Journal of Southern Historj 46 (May 1980), 190. See also Horace Mann Bond, The Education of the Negro in the American Social Order (New York, 1934), ; Louis R. Harlan, Separate and Unequal: Public School Campaig~zs and Racism in the Southern Seaboard States, (Chapel Hill, 1958), ; and Leon F. Litwack, Trouble in Mind: Black Southernen in the Age ofjim Crow (New York, 1998), 101. 'Bond, Education ofthe Negro in the American Social Order, 274; State Department of Education, Alabama, "Report of a Survey of Wilcox County Schools, ," box 1, series , Division of Negro Education, Georgia Department of Archives and History (Atlanta, Ga.); Fred McCuistion, The South; Negro %ching Force: A Briefstudy (Nashville, 1931), 6-8,
6 Black Teachers in the Jim Crow South 69 In the 1930s one-teacher schools housed in churches, like this one in Gee's Bend, Alabama, outnumbered the Rosenwald schools. Social scientists questioned their educational value. Courtesy Library of Congress. cluded, "that most of the children cannot be said to have been touched by any real educational influence hat ever."^ Assessing the shortcomings of the missionary schools of Reconstruction, Bertram Wyatt-Brown has argued that "American pedagogy at midcentury was totally unsuited to the rural and penurious character of black life." In the 1930s the disjuncture between schooling and sharecropping remained equally sharp. "Having no relation to life or its needs," wrote Charles S. Johnson, "education has no meaning beyond the luxury of form." Studying rural schools in six cotton counties scattered across the South, Johnson concluded that for many black children education was a confusing, disturbing, alienating experience. Poorly prepared teachers, harsh punishments, rote learning, and a lifeless curriculum promoted "maladjustment" to "lark Foreman, Eizviro7znzentalFactors in Negro Elementary Education (New York, 1932), 40; Arthur F, Raper, Pi'eface to Peasantry: A Tak of Two Black Belt Counties (New York, 1968), 334; Gunnar Myrdal, Richard Sterner, and Arnold Rose, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problewz andmodern Democracy (2 vols., New York, 1944),11, 902-3; John Simon, "Program in Rural Education," 1935, box , Division of Negro Education, Georgia Department of Archives and History.
7 70 The Journal of American History June 2000 school and inhibited "proper personality development." Small wonder that many children left school at the earliest oppo~tunity.~ A second objection to education-as-empowerment concerns the fundamental character of the social order in the United States: Even when blacks improved their position relative to whites, educational gains did not lead to commensurate economic and political gains. Starting in the 1940s, black and white schools in the South moved steadily toward equalization; yet even as the gap closed, blacks remained politically powerless and suffered systematic job discrimination. By 1965 black schools had achieved near parity with white schools in per capita spending, teachers' salaries, and length of school terms. But young black men were still earning 30 percent less than young white men. As Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis argued in their classic 1976 study Schooling in Capitalist America, echoing a conclusion reached by Horace Mann Bond and W. E. B. Du Bois thirty years earlier, "Education... has never been a potent force for economic equality."1 A third objection to education-as-empowerment reflects the basic dilemma that confronted all black southerners during the Jim Crow era: the need to appease whites while still maintaining personal dignity and racial loyalty. Teachers experienced that pressure in a particularly acute manner, because, unlike black ministers, they depended upon white support, both political and financial, in order to do their jobs. School improvements had to be achieved through supplication and persuasion rather than negotiation and pressure. The role of teachers as racial diplomats, therefore, made it hard for other blacks to regard them with unalloyed respect. On the one hand, teachers were admired for their selfless dedication; on the other hand, some blacks resented the privileged status that whites accorded teachers and wondered where their ultimate loyalty lay. In addition to respect, teachers evoked cynicism and distrust. The position of black teachers as community leaders was therefore deeply ambiguous-some would say fatally compromised. Stranger and Alone, a 1950 novel by J. Saunders Redding, offered a chilling portrait of a black teacher devoid of idealism, racial loyalty, and spiritual strength; mentored by the cynical, corrupt president of a black state college, he betrayed NAACP members-fellow teachers-to the white superintendent. Critics of teachers reserved their sharpest barbs for black college presidents. Where such men "have taken over as leaders of Negro communities," observed Redding, "there rises a nauseating reek of devious and oily obsequiousness. It is a kind of fascism in reverse." Lewis I<. McMillan, who taught history at South Carolina State College, complained that in a black college, "the president is usually Bertram Wyatt-Brown, "Black Schooling during Reconstruction," in The Web of Soz~thern Social Relations: Women, Family, and Edzlcation, ed. Walter J. Fraser Jr., R. Frank Saunders Jr., and Jon L. Wakelyn (Athens, Ga., 1985), 154; Charles S. Johnson, "The Cult~lral Environment of the Negro Child and Its Educational Implications," Feb. 15, 1939, folder 5, box 160, Charles S. Johnson Papers (Fisk University, Nashville, Tenn.); Charles S. Johnson, G~owing Up irz the Black Belt: Negro Youtj~ in the RuralSouth (New York, 1967), lo Ronald E. Ferguson, "Shifting Challenges: Fifty Years of Economic Change toward Black-White Earnings Equality," Daedalus, 124 (Winter 1995), 42-46; Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Schooling in CapitalistAmerica: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life (New York, 1976), 8, 35; Bond, Education of the Negro in the American Social Order, 12-13; W. E. B. Du Bois, "Outline of Report on Economic Conditions of Negroes in the State of Texas," Prai~ie View Bz~lletitz, 27 (Nov. 1935),
8 Black Teachers in the Jim Crow South 71 an ignorant autocrat" who "stands a surer chance of keeping his job to the extent that he is hostile to the best interests of his own people."". - In exploring the efforts of black teachers, moreover, it is important to acknowledge a fourth objection, or qualification, to the education-as-empowerment thesis: gains from education were rarely clear-cut. Establishing connections between educational change and social change is always difficult; almost every educational strategy has entailed conflicts, costs, and compromises. Determining what constituted progress in the education of blacks is an especially vexing question. The emergence of an all-black teaching force in the South's segregated public schools illustrates the problem. Even before the Civil War ended, many blacks expressed a strong prefeience for teachers of their own race. It came as something of a shock to the American Missionary Association (AMA), for example, when it entered Savannah upon the heels of Gen. William T. Sherman, to find that blacks resisted the offer of northern white teachers. In letters from across the South, the Freedmen's Bureau heard similar reports: "They want a colored teacher." After Reconstruction blacks pushed hard to have all whites who were teaching in the black public schools replaced. By 1919, when Charleston finally acceded, the campaign for black teachers had achieved its goal throughout the South. The displacement of white teachers represented an economic gain for blacks and reflected a healthy desire for community autonomy. ~ccordingto the renowned black teacher Richard R. Wright Sr., it was an educational gain too, for white teachers employed pedagogical methods ill-suited to the "mental, moral and physical constitution" of blacks. The problem was accentuated with southern-born whites, who, according to the pioneer black teacher John W. Cromwell, were too imbued with the "false andwicked ideas" bred by slavery safely to instruct black children.'* Yet the departure of white teachers was a mixed blessing. In the rural areas, the preference for black teachers often represented a bending to the wishes of local whites, who hated the "Yankee schoolmarms" but would tolerate southern blacks whom they felt more able to control or intimidate. "They have had a school house burnt by having a white teacher to teach them," reported a Freedmen's Bureau officer from Fayetteville, Tennessee. A black teacher "would meet the approbation of the community at large." In the cities, where southern whites had occupied the soughtafter teaching positions, their departure often caused white taxpayers and administrators to lose interest in black schools, leading to a decline in support. Some believed that the loss of white teachers lowered the quality of black public schools.'" In cities such as New Orleans and Charleston, Creoles and mulattoes, descendants of the free Negroes of antebellum times, often preferred private denomina- "J. Saunders Redding, Stranger and Alone; A ~Vovel (New l'ork, 1950);J. Saunders Redding, On Being Negro in America (New York, 1964), 67; Lewis K. McMillan, "Negro Higher Education as I Have Known It," Joz~rnalof Negro Edz~catiorz, 8 (Jan. 1939), "June Odessa Patron, "Major Richard Robert Wright Sr. and Black Higher Education in Georgia, " (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1980), 273; Mansfield, "That Fateful Class," 344. I3George F. Bowles to D. Burt, Nov. 22, 1866 (microfilm: T142, reel 47),Selected Records of the Tennessee Field Office of the Freedmen's Bureau, , RG 105 (National Archives, Washington, D.C.).
9 72 The Journal of American History June 2000 tional schools that retained white teachers. Catholic schools and American Missionary Association schools tended to become havens for the lighter complexioned and the better off. 'Tknew only emerged or emerging classes when the aim was to follow the white cultural pattern," recalled Lura Beam, who taught at the mu's Gregory Institute in Wilmington, North Carolina, in the early part of the twentieth century. "The lowest economic group-the 'arms and legs' folks, who had only simple farming skills-i never knew at all." The difference between the public schools and the schools helped to perpetuate a long-standing class 1coLr division. l" Speech patterns widened this gulf between the classes. Some blacks wanted white teachers, explained a Freedmen's Bureau official, because "they want to learn to pronounce and speak like white persons.l Yet those who learned to "speak correctly," recalled Richard Wright Jr., were "sometimes ridiculed and called 'proper' or 'white folksy."' When educated teachers went back into the country, they could barely communicate with their pupils and neighbors. "The people don't know enough words for a fellow to carry on a conversation with them," complained the teacher and future novelist Charles W. Chesnutt. "He must reduce his phraseology several degrees lower than that of the first reader." Wright believed that educated blacks often lost influence with the masses by belittling vernacular dialect.15 In the rural areas, black teachers sometimes-replaced whites only to find themselves at loggerheads with black preachers. Ministers had often led the opposition to white teachers. Keen to establish their independence from white-controlled denominations, they resented whites who disparaied black religious worship as ignorant, superstitious, and overemotional. In 1869 Rev. F. W. Morris ejected a white teacher from his church in Staunton, Virginia, - and took over the classes. "You don't need any Northern teachers," he told the congregation, "let your own people teach you." But the church's success in extending its influence over schools did not always produce happy results. Charles I? Adams, who founded the school in northern Louisiana that became Grambling University, contended for years against bitter opposition from Baptist ministers who sponsored a rival school. Denominational rivalries also encouraged cash-strapped churches to spread themselves too thin, resulting in duplication and unnecessary competition. Secular-minded educators such as Booker T. Washington-who charged that "a very large number of our colored ministers are morally unfitn-complained that "denominational prejudice" hampered the efforts of professionally trained teachers to develop an efficient school system.16 '"dmund L. Drago, Initiative, Paternalism, and Race Relations: Charlestoni Avery Norn~al Izstitute (Athens, Ga., 1990), ; John B. Alberts, "Black Catholic Schools: The Josephite Parishes of New Orleans during the Jim Crow Era" (M.A. thesis, University of New Orleans, 1990); Lura Beam, He Called Them by the Lightning: A Teacher? Odyssey in the Rural South, (Indianapolis, 1967), 3-4. Some Louisiana school boards adopted a semiofficial policy of supporting separate public schools for Creoles of color. IiC. J. C. Drake to Burt, Dec. 6, 1866 (microfilm, reel 47), Selected Records of the Tennessee Field Office of the Freedmen's Bureau; Richard R. Wright Jr., 87 Ears behind the Black Cu~tain: An Autobiography (Philadelphia, 1965), 31-32; Richard Brodhead, ed., The Journals of Charles W Chesnutt (Durham, 1993), 82. I6Mansfield, "That Fateful Class," ; Mildred D. G. Gallot, A History of Grumbling State Universig (Lanham, 1985), 12-28; Booker T. Washington, "Extracts from an Address in Birmingham." Jan. 1, 1900, in The Booker T Washington Papers, ed. Louis R. Harlan et al. (14 vols., Urbana, ), V,394; Booker T. Washington, "Extracts from an Address in Brooklyn," Dec. 8, 1907, ibid., IX, ; Booker T. Washington, "A Speech Delivered before the Women's New England Club," Jan. 27, 1890, ibid., 111,
10 Black Teachers in the Jim Crow South 73 Washington himself personified both the ambiguous character of teachers' leadership and the elusive nature of educational progress. Whether the benefits of his Atlanta Compromise outweighed the costs is an issue that divided blacks then and perplexes historians now. Critics argue that Washington's stress on "industrial education," even when viewed in the most favorable light, represented an approach to social change that was almost glacial in its gradualism. Most blacks in the South both valued education and understood the need for other forms of collective effort. Yet by treating education as a panacea, by abjuring protest, and by denigrating politics, Washington offered a fundamentally unrealistic program of racial advancement. Even as an economic program, industrial education failed. Moreover, Washington did little to disabuse his corporate and southern white backers of the notion that industrial education entailed the acceptance by blacks of second-class citizenship. Most whites happily accepted the proposition that education would "solve the race problem" if it meant the continuation of white supremacy. By Washington's death in 1915 it was painfully clear that the appeasement of southern whites had done little to soften racial discrimination. l7 Yet if education, in the short term, produced neither political empowerment nor liberation from Jim Crow, in the long term it contributed to both. Campaigns to establish and sustain black schools fostered a sense of community, diminished illiteracy, and helped nurture the hope of equality. Moreover, in the cities-which depression-decade investigators, obsessed with the plight of farm tenants and sharecroppers, tended to overlook-schools steadily improved. Meanwhile black colleges, state and private, educated many of the men and women who led struggles against discrimination, racial violence, and second-class citizenship. Perhaps, as Diane Ravitch has suggested, criticism of industrial education and undue stress on the disparities between black schools and white schools obscure a more important point: "Blacks were more often oppressed by the education they did not receive than by the education they did receive." Regardless of curriculum and irrespective of how far black schools lagged behind white ones, education could not but encourage discontent over the oppressions of Jim Crow. Simple but telling is the "Ronald E. Butchart, Northern Schools, Southern Blacks, and Reconstrz~ction: Freedmen? Edz~cation, (Westport, 1980); Donald Spivey, Schoolingfor the New Slavery: Black Zndz~strial Edz~cation, (Westport, 1978); Elizabeth Jacoway, Yarzkee Missionaries in the South: The Perm School Experimer~t (Baton Rouge, 1980); James D. Anderson, "Education as a Vehicle for the Manipulation of Black Workers," in Techi~olog~~ and Edz~cation: Dissenting Essays in the Iiitellectz~al Foz~ndations of American Education, ed. Walter Feinberg and Henry Rosemont (Urbana, 1975), 15-40; Bond, Edz~cation of the Negro in the American Social Ordet; ; Horace Mann Bond, Negro Edz~cation in Alabama: A Study in Cotton and Steel (Washington, 1939), 290; Harlan, Separate and Unequal; Louis R. Harlan, Booker % Washington: The Makiiig of a Black Leader, (New York, 1972); Louis R. Harlan, Booker 7: Washington: The VjZiard of E~skegee, (New York, 1983); John H. Stanfield, Philanthropy andjim Crow in American Social Science (Wesrporr, 1985); Karen J. Ferguson, "Caught in 'No Man's Land': The Negro Cooperative Demonstration Service and the Ideology of Booker T. Washington, ," Agricultz~ral History, 72 (Winter 1998), 33-54; Kousser, "Progressivism-For Middle-Class Whites Only," ; Robert G. Newby and David B. Tyack, "Victin~s without 'Crimes': Some Historical Perspectives on Black Education," Journal of Negro Edz~cation, 40 (Summer 1971), ; Lester C. Lamon, "Black Public Education in the South, : By Whom, for Whom, and under Whose Control?," Journalof Thought, 18 (Fall 1983), 76-89; Emma Lou Thornbrough, "Booker T. Washington As Seen by His White Contemporaries," Journal of Negro History, 53 (April 1968),
11 74 The Journal of American History June 2000 fact that black newspapers, famously outspoken in the revelation and castigation of racial prejudice, achieved record circulation during World War 11, precisely when the rate of black literacy approached 90 percent. As Gunnar Myrdal argued in 1944, "the long-range effect of the rising level of education in the Negro people goes in the direction of nourishing and strengthening the Negro protest."18 Despite the repressive nature of Jim Crow, therefore, teachers worked for equality through indirect methods. After Redemption and disfranchisement destroyed black political influence, open challenges to white supremacy were futile and dangerous. But even in the South of James K. Vardaman, Coleman Blease, and Eugene Talmadge, education was a sphere of quasi-political activity that whites were prepared to tolerate, albeit with suspicion. While accommodating to the outward forms of white supremacy, teachers engaged in institution building, professional organization, and social activism to promote democracy and equal opportunity. Viewed in this light, the accommodationist strategy of Washington and his followers takes on a different meaning. As a method of raising the status of black education, it was a qualified success. Through skillful racial diplomacy, Washington fended off the threat that disfranchisement might cause the destruction of black public schools altogether. His advocacy of industrial education also helped to untie the purse strings of both northern philanthropists and southern white taxpayers. Washington's gradualist policies struck many black southerners as a sensible, pragmatic strategy for securing and strengthening black schools. l9 In some cases, it was only by stressing industrial education that blacks acquired state-supported higher education. Such was the case, for example, with Tennessee State Agricultural and Industrial Normal School, founded in Indeed, William Jasper Hale, its long-serving president, once fended off the threat of closure by calling upon the assembled students to stand up if they took agriculture. To the discomfiture of the white trustees-who were complaining that the college had departed from its original purpose-the entire student body rose to its feet.20 For all his economic and political conservatism, Washington stoutly defended black humanity and never renounced the ultimate goal of equality. His letters and speeches, the sociologist and educator Charles S. Johnson concluded in 1949, "show that he envisioned complete political, social, and economic equality for Negroes." The Tuskegee ethic of hard work, self-improvement, and Christian virtue was apolitical and individualistic. Yet that ethic, Washington insisted, would "give the lie to the assertion of his enemies North and South that the Negro is the inferior of the white man." Such statements explain why many white southerners never abandoned their suspicion of Washington. Their hysterical reaction to Washington's dinner Diane Ravitch, The Revisioiiists Revised: A Critique of the RadicalAttack on the Schools (New York, 1978), 67; Lee Finkle, Forumfor Protest: The Black Press duriizg World War I1 (Rutherford,N.J.,1975), ; Myrdal, Arnericaii Dilemma, "Donald J. Calista, "Booker T. Washington: Another Look," Journal of Negro History, 49 (Oct. 1964), ;Virginia L. Denton, Booker % Washington and the Adult Edncation Movement (Gainesville, 1993), Lester C. Lamon, "The Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial Normal School: Public Higher Education for Black Tennesseans," Tennessee Historical Quarterly, 32 (Spring 1973), 42-58; Lorenzo J. Greene, Selling Black Historyfor Carter G. Woodson:A Diary , ed. Arvarh E. Strickland (Columbia, Mo., 1996), 80.
12 Black Teachers in the Jim Crow South 75 with President Theodore Roosevelt contained a basic insight: as an Arkansas school superintendent complained, the episode betrayed Washington's "deep down antipathy to white ~upremacy."~~ Thus even the restricted education advocated by Washington heightened blacks' consciousness of their minority status and implicitly challenged Jim Crow. White southerners remained suspicious of black education for precisely that reason. As Charles S. Johnson insisted, the white Southfailed to construct a true "caste system" because blacks never accepted the legitimacy and permanency of white supremacy, making the Jim Crow regime inherently unstable. Hence black teachers made a crucial contribution to the struggle for racial equality during the age of segregation. The image of the black teacher as Uncle Tom or race traitor is a grotesque ~tereotype.~~ Disfranchisement, of course, clouded the whole concept of black leadership. After black politicians were abolished, southern whites came to regard black educators as acceptable representatives of the black community. Teachers figured prominently in the work of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, founded in 1919, which opposed racial violence but not segregation or disfranchisement. Mayors and governors often appointed teachers to advisory boards and committees. Yet teachers were "leaders" and "representatives" of dubious validity. Nobody elected them, not even in the limited sense that Baptist churches selected their preachers. Teachers were dependent, either directly or indirectly, upon politicians aid officials who insisted upon black acquiescence in white supremacy. Washington established a degree of autonomy for Tuskegee Institute by building up a large private endowment. Yet the survival of his college depended upon the support of Alabama's white leaders, and Washington took care to cultivate good relations with them. State-supported black colleges, however, had far less independence. As the disfranchisement movement swept across the South, the tenure of the men who headed those institutions became precarious in the extreme. E. L. Blackshear of Prairie View College, Texas, was dismissed for being on the wrong side of the temperance question. Thomas DeSaille Tucker, president of Florida Colored Normal School, was fired for appointing too many northern teachers who, allegedly, sneered at "southern institutions" and instilled in their students contempt for "the agricultural and industrial life of the race." Richard R. Wright, Republican politico and longtime president of Georgia State Industrial College in Savannah, found the deterioration in race relations so oppressive that he quit the South in Conforming to the humiliating etiquette of white supremacy, black educators *' Charles S. Johnson, review of Booker T Washington: Edzlcator and Interracial Interpreter by Basil Matthew, Mississippi Vallej~ HistoricalRei/iew, 36 (June 1949), 158; Washington, "A Speech before the Philosophical Lyceum of Lincoln University," April 26, 1888, in Booker 7: Wasliiiigton Papen, ed. Harlan et al., 11, 442; Elizabeth L. Wheeler, "Isaac Fisher: The Frustrations of a Negro Educator at Branch Normal College, ," Arkansas Historical Quarte~ly, 4 1 (Spring 1982), 43. 2'Charles S. Johnson, "Den~ocracy and Social Co~ltrol in Race Relations," 1942, folder 15, box 160, Johnson Papers. "George R. Woolfolk, Prairie Kew; A Stub iii Pz'zlblic Conscieiice, (New York, 1962), ; Gilbert L. Porter and Leedell W. Neyland, Historj~ of the Florida State Gachers Association (Washington, 1977), 43-46; Raymond Wolters, The New Negro on Canzpz~s: Black College Rebellioiis of tbe 1920s (Princeton, 1975), ; Haynes, Unslirzg Heroes, xxxi, 475.
13 The Journal of American History June 2000 resorted to flattery and guile in dealing with whites who possessed money and power. The annual open days at black colleges, for example, became legendary for their excesses in pampering white visitors; politicians and trustees were treated to mouth-watering feasts, elaborate entertainments, and fawning attention. "Toadying" secured results but exacted psychic costs. At one open day in the 1930s, students at Kentucky State College refused to take part in a tableau that required them to wear bandannas while pretending to pick cotton. Even the singing of spirituals came to be regarded as demeaning. Isaac Fisher, traveling with the Tuskegee Institute quartet on a fund-raising tour, complained that whites wanted them to accompany their singing with shouts and moans, asking them to " 'play the Nigger'-- their own words-more." When the white philanthropist George Foster Peabody complained that the Hampton Institute choir neglected the spirituals on a tour of England, Robert R. Moton, Washington's successor at Tuskegee, explained that many blacks "look with suspicion on Negro melodies." Of course, it was not the songs themselves that offended, but the context in which they were sung. In 1926 Hampton students initiated a protest strike by refusing to sing spirituals in front of a visiting British colonial offi~ial.~" In the Deep South, especially, black teachers went to great lengths to obtain white protection and approval. Principals of private schools prevailed upon local bankers, planters, and merchants to serve as trustees. Laurence C. Jones, who founded the famous Piney Woods School in Mississippi in 1909 and headed it for sixty years, "was careful to heed the will of his white friends, seeking their advice and sanction frequently and staying away from politics." His habit of donning work overalls whenever he visited state officials in Jackson spoke for itself. Later, when the civil rights movement challenged segregation, Jones could always be relied upon to assure whites, "I like things the way they are.''25 The principals of black public high schools enjoyed even less room for maneuver. Few in number, especially before 1940, they and their institutions were completely dependent upon white financial support. Moreover, because whites eyed black high schools with suspicion, superintendents kept their principals-accessibly located in the towns and cities-under careful scrutiny. In Charleston, South Carolina, the school board "closely monitored the black principals' work [and] their after-school activities," writes the scholar Edmund Drago. Elsewhere, superintendents and school board members often treated black principals as chauffeurs, gardeners, repairmen, and errand boys. They "asks you to do things," a Louisiana principal told Horace Mann Bond, "and it's right that you should do it. They give you your job. The other night I was?' Leon Litwack, Pozlble in Mind, 83-85; Lester C. Lamon, Black Gniresseans, (Knoxville, 1977), 103; Gerald L. Smith, A Black Educator in the SegregatedSonth: I<entnckJh Rlifus B. Atwood (Lexington, Ky., 1994), ; Isaac Fisher to Booker T. Washington, Oct. 23, 1899, in Washington Papers, ed. Harlan et dl., V, 242; Robert R. Moton to George Foster Peabody, Oct. 10, 1918, folder 163, box 24, Robert R. Moton Papers (Hollis Burke Frissell Librarp Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Ala.); Wolters, New Negro on Canzpris, iAlferdteen B. Harrison, Pinej~ Woods School: An O~al Histoiy (Jackson, 1982), 109, 116; Arnold Cooper, Between Strugle aird Hope: Four Black Edz4catol.s iir the South, (An~es, 1989), 51-62; Prentiss Headlight, "The 'Little Professor' of Piney Woods Speaks," April 2, 1959, unidentified newspaper clipping, folder 9119, missi is sip pi State Sovereignty Commission Files (Mississippi State Archives, Jackson, Miss.).
14 Black Teachers in the Jim Crow South 77 got up at 2 o'clock in the morning doctoring on one of the school board member's horses." School superintendents also expected black principals to keep them apprised of what was going on inside the Negro community. The fact that most principals were men (most black teachers were women) may have increased their susceptibility to white pressure.26 Nevertheless, black teachers retained respect and influence. For one thing, a continuing pattern of black voluntarism bolstered the relationship between teacher, school, and community. Most black schools and colleges began life as private projects, with churches providing buildings, farmers land, parents money, and teachers lifetimes of service and sacrifice. Even when schools received private philanthropy and some state funding, they continued to depend upon the voluntary contributions of patrons and the heroic efforts of teachers. The five thousand Rosenwald schools that were erected between 1917 and the vast majority of them elementary schools-could not have been built without an enormous community effort. The money allocated by the Julius Rosenwald Fund itself constituted "less than the total raised by the Negroes themselves in small amounts, county by county and village by vil- lage." Parent-teacher associations (PTAS) then raised money to buy supplies, pay for fuel, extend the school year, and even purchase school buses. The anthropologist Hortense Powdermaker, studying the black community of Indianola, Mississippi, marvelled at the PTAS' "indefatigable... efforts [to] maintain and improve the school^."^' Given their huge material and human investment in their schools, blacks came to treasure them. The Rosenwald schools were monuments to black achievement and symbols of black hopes for the future. The schools also functioned as community centers, providing nondenominational meeting places in which Baptists and Methodists could both feel comfortable; reaching out to adults by offering classes in health, homemaking, agriculture, and literacy. In rural areas the annual "school closing" exercise-"speeches, orations, plays, drills, monologues, and singingn-constituted the most important community celebration of the year.28 Black teachers in the rural South were not all heroic pioneers in the mold of 2Q~ago, Iizitiatii)e, Paternalism, and Race Relntioizs, 177; Horace ~Mann Bond and Julia W. Bond, The Star Creek Papers: Washington Parish and tbe Lynching of Jemnze Wilson, ed. Adam Fairclough (Athens, Ga., 1997), Henry Allen Bullock, s availability of Public Education for Negroes in Texas," Prairie Btllletiiz, 29 (Nov. 1937), 48-51; "Florida: Some Data on Principals in Negro Schools, 1952," box 1, series , Division of Negro Education, Georgia Department of Archives and History. Men accounted for about four-fifths of black principals, one-fifth of all black teachers. Ibid. "Butchart, Northern Schools, Sol~tbern Blacks, and Reconstrrtction, ; James D. Anderson, "Ex-Slaves and the Rise of Universal Education in the New South, ," in Ed/icatioli and the Rise of the Nezu South, ed. Ronald K. Goodenow and Arrhur 0.White (Boston, 1981), 1-10; Hortense Powdermaker, Aftrr Fwedoni: A Ctiltiir.01 Strl& iiii the Deep South (New York, 1968), 310; Edwin R. Embree, Jlilius Rosenwald Fzlnd A Review to June 30, 1928 (Chicago, 1928), 26;Nathan C. Newbold, "Negro Education," 1930, box,l, Special Subject Files, Division of Negro Education, Department of Public Instruction (North Carolina Stare Archives, Raleigh, N.C.); Charles S. Johnson, The Negro Public Schook: A Social and Edrlcntiovial Survej~ (Baton Rouge, 1942), 30. Blacks provided 17% of the money to build Rosenwald Schools, the Rosenwald Fund itself only 15%. The rest carne from tax funds (64%) and "white friends" (4%). Anderson, Edrlcatiori of Blacks it2 the Sol~ti~, Y "Washington Parish," folder 1, box 225, Charles S. Johnson Papers; Horace Mann Bond and Julia IY Bond, "~ADescription of Washington Parish," Horace Mnnn Bond Papers, ed. John H. Bracey Jr. (microfilm, 98 reels, University Publications of America, 1988), reel 30, pt. 2; Leloudis, Sc/7001ing tile New Sorltb, 204-6; Dorothy Redus Robinson, The Bell Rings ([t Foil,:. A Bknck Zacheri Chronicle of Ci7ange (Austin, 1978),
15 The Journal of American History Blacks donated land, materials, labor, and money-17 percent of the total cost-to secure Rosenwald schools such as this one in Mississippi. Courtesy Fisk University. Booker T. Washington. Low pay, crude housing, and lack of social amenities deterred many of the better-qualified teachers from working in the countryside; they gravitated to the cities. Corruption and favoritism in the appointment of teachers compounded the problem. White officials commonly treated teaching positions as patronage, doling them out to local favorites and refusing to hire "outsiders." Teachers sometimes had to bribe trustees, school board members, and even county superintendents to secure positions. At times the unqualified gained appointment through the intervention of a minister or a personal connection with an influential white person. "The daughter or the son of a black woman who worked as a domestic in the home of a member of the Board of Education was readily added to the teaching staff," one teacher recalled bitterly. A white planter might block the dismissal of an incompetent teacher because she was married to his best sharecropper. Many rural teachers-poorly trained, poorly paid, and faced with impossible work- ing conditions-lacked motivation and ~ommitment.~' Still, there were thousands like Dorothy Robinson, men and women who taught "with zeal and dedication... as though they felt a personal mandate to compensate for the areas of lack in the lives of their students." Black schools received such paltry public support that teachers were virtually compelled to seek community assistance. ZwT. B. Williams to T. E. Rivers, July 8, 1920, box 6, W. T. B. Willia~ns Papers (Frissell Library); Powdermaker, After Freedom, ; Robinson, Bell Ritzgs at Four, 39-42; Michael Fultz, "Mrican American Teachers in the South: Powerless~less and the Ironies of Expectations and Protest," Hzstory of Edi~mtiotz Quarterly, 35 (Winter 1995), 418.
16 Black Teachers in the Jim Crow South Help was usually freely given, for the teacher, often the only literate person in the community, and one expected to perform a variety of extracurricular tasks, commanded respect and affection. Recalling his work in east Texas in the early 1930s, Robinson wrote, "I was asked to teach Sunday school, write orders to Sears and Roebuck, write letters, and figure up weekly wages. It never occurred to me to refuse their varied requests.... I became not merely the children's teacher but also the community's, and everyone referred to me as 'our teacher."'30 A. C. Facin, who headed Mineral Springs School in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, typified the kind of teacher that Washington praised: college graduates "who go into lonely desolate districts with little hope of getting salaries... and give themselves in this beautiful manner to the uplift of our people." During his ten years as principal, Facin leveled the site for the new three-teacher Rosenwald school, added a home economics room, built his own house, organized canning clubs, and developed a school farm that included a grist mill and vehicle repair shop. In 1933 the school made $1 18 from the sale of two bales of cotton-enough to pay for a secondhand piano, fix broken windows, and replace missing doorknobs. In his early days Facin contended against jealousy, lack of cooperation, and outright threats from parents who were angered by the corporal punishment he inflicted on their children. Faced with pressures that might have destroyed his effectiveness, Facin enlisted the aid of the local mail rider, "one mean white man," to visit the families who had threatened him and "sort out" the problem.31 Such resourceful, unorthodox tactics typified the double-edged nature of black leadership in this period. John J. Coss, a board member of the Rosenwald Fund and a professor of philosophy at Columbia University, was struck by the "roundabout fashion in which by various subterfuges Negro education has been improved." Teachers who succeeded in breaking down white prejudice against black education were "almost miracles," thought Coss, for they "have come through the state of the despised or tolerated, been subject to condescension, and still have kept their steady goodness without bitterness." He cited the example of William M. Hubbard, principal of a two-year normal school in Forsyth, Georgia. "Slow, soft-spoken, plodding but patient and humble and beloved by many of the white town folks," Hubbard was particularly adept at cultivating the principal of a white Baptist girls' college. He sent his boys to do odd jobs at the college, and, in return, received periodic donations of dog-eared books and worn-out equipment. Behind their ingratiating facade, however, men such as Hubbard were often astute diplomats, who used their connections with northern supporters-church boards, phiianthropic foundations, and wealthy individualsto manipulate state officials and leverage increased f~nding.3~ 'O Robinson, Bell Rings at Four, 14, 45. j' Booker T. Washington, "Extracts from an Address at Carnegie Hall," Feb. 23, 1909, in Washington Papers, ed. Harlan et al., X, 51; Estelle Massey Riddle, "The Mineral Springs School," 1934, folder 1, box 335, Julius Rosenwald Fund Papers (Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee); Estelle Massey hddle, "The Mineral Springs Community," ibid. '2John J. Coss, "Some Notes on Education in Southeast Georgia," June 15-19, 1936 (microfilm: reel 333), Rosenwald Fund Papers (Amistad Research Center, Tulane University); Williams to W. R. Farrand, Jan. 3, 1912, box 5, Williams Papers; Jackson Davis to John C. Dixon, Oct. 24, 1933, box 1, series , Division of Negro Education, Georgia Department of Archives and History; Willard Range, The Rise and Progress of Negro Colleges itz Georgia, (Athens, Ga., 1951),
17 The Journal of American History June 2000 Through "diplomacy and machinations," wrote the Tuskegee sociologist Lewis W. Jones, the black high school principal often prized additional funds from skeptical whites. "When he wanted to develop a band or an athletic team he exploited local pride. His appeal for support... was that the good white people of Sandusky couldn't afford to let those of neighboring Belltown provide better for their Negro school." Many a principal also exploited that old standby, the Negro spiritual. Arthur Harold Parker, who created Birmingham, Alabama's Industrial High School, the most famous black high school in the South, assiduously cultivated the city school superintendent, John Herbert Phillips, who, like many other whites, could be moved to tears by hearing "those plaintive, tuneful and soul stirring melodies." On one occasion, Parker recalled, Phillips lamented that if the high school got an orchestra instructor, the young people might forget the slave songs. "You will get an instructor of orchestra on one condition," the superintendent promised, "and that is that you will always sing these old songs."33 If teachers had to do their share of bowing and scraping, blacks rarely condemned such role playing so long as they considered it beneficial to the interests of the community. Hortense Powdermaker was astonished to see how a collegeeducated teacher in Sunflower County, Mississippi-"a strong self-respecting personn-transformed herself into "the essence of meekness" in front of her white superintendent. Afterward, with a cynical chuckle, the teacher explained to the anthropologist how by "acting proper" she secured books, equipment, playgrounds, and better wages for black teachers. Blacks understood these facts of life. "She was admired and liked by all the Negroes," Powdermaker recalled.34 Inside the classroom, teachers enjoyed greater freedom of speech and action than one might expect. For one thing, it was rare to see a white person in a black public school. The teaching force was entirely black, and white superintendents, especially in the rural South, rarely visited black schools. Dorothy Robinson recalled that in the 1930s, "I was a rather free agent and did just about what I wanted to do, as long as I did not ask for anything that would entail the expenditure of money." That whites regarded black women as less threatening than black men may also have contributed to the relative freedom enjoyed by teachers, for at least three-quarters of all black teachers were female~.~5 The fact that superintendents often delegated administration to a Jeanes teacher increased the de facto autonomy of black schools. The Jeanes teachers, nearly all of them women, were paid by the Anna T. Jeanes Fund to promote "industrial educationn-including cooking, sewing, and basketmaking-in rural schools. Yet "Lewis W. Jones, Cold Rebellion: The South? Oligarchy in Reuolt (London, 1962), 128; Marshall Fred Phillips, "A History of the Public Schools in Birmingham, Alabama" (M.A. thesis, University of Alabama, 1939), ; Arthur Harold Parkel; '2 Dream That Came True': Autobiographj~ of Arthur Harold Parker (Birmingham, 1932), ,,- j4hortense Powdermaker, Stranger and Friend: The Waj~ of an Anthropologist (New York, 1966), 144, ii Robinson, Bell Riizgs at Four, 33; Leloudis, Schooling the New South, 187; Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Gender andj?n Crow: Wometz and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, (Chapel Hill, 1996),
18 Black Teachers in the Jinl Crow South these "supervising industrial teachers," to give them their official title, soon outgrew their Washingtonian job description. They hired and fired teachers, lobbied school boards, organized public health campaigns, set up PTAS, and established homemakers clubs. Sometimes feared, usually respected, they acted as informal social workers and general problem solvers.3g The philanthropic foundations persistently complained that the Jeanes teachers had become all-around administrators rather than promoters of "industrial education." Only foundation bureaucrats, however, clung to the dogmatic belief that black schools should specialize in something called "rural education." Black teachers and black parents resisted the notion that children should be educated to stay on the farm. They knew all too well that agriculture was a dead end. One survey of black schoolchildren asked the sons of farmers to state their preferred careers: only 8 percent chose farming. When high school students in Louisiana were questioned, the boys wanted to be teachers, doctors, aviators, ministers, mail clerks, carpenters, and lawyers; the girls aspired to be teachers, nurses, beauticians, seamstresses, stenographers, and musician^.^' Blacks perceived a high school education and, even more, a college education as means of escaping the poverty, cultural isolation, and political tyranny of the southern countryside. In the 1930s, when 250 students at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, returned a questionnaire on their intended occupations, not one chose agriculture. Even at the so-called land grant colleges, only about 10 percent of students took classes in agriculture. The fact that black aspirations had so far outdistanced white expectations was due, at least in part, to black teachers. As the president of the North Carolina black teachers association pointedly asked of Nathan C. Newbold, the white head of the state's Division of Negro Education: "Is it to be the policy to confine Negroes to certain occupations... or is it to be the American policy to both allow and encourage their participation in all of the occupational phases of the national life?"'8 While proclaiming their support for "industrial education," black teachers quietly and steadily raised academic standards. In 1908, for example, Sam Huston College in Austin, Texas, boasted courses in sewing, millinery, dressmaking, cooking, house- j6 Gilmore, Gender. andjinz Crow, ; Leloudis, Schooling the Neiu Soi~tli, , 201-4; Lance G. E. Jones, The Jeaizes Teacher in the Uizited States, (Chapel Hill, 1937); Williams ro Arthur D. Wright, Ocr. 16, 1935, folder 14, box 23, Phelps-Sroltes Fund Papers (Schomburg Cenrer for Research in Black Culrure, New York Public Libras): New York, N.Y.); "Ecological Surveys: Avoyelles Parish," folder 3, box 225, Johnson Papers; Estelle Massey Riddle, "Political Structure [Lincoln Parish, Louisiana]," 1934, folder 1, box 334, Rosenwald Fund Papers; Estelle Massey Riddle, "Mrs. E. M. Riddle's Report," 1934, folder 1, box 335, ibicl. j7 Fultz, "African American Teachers in the South," 402; James Simon, "Negro Trade Schools and Stare Colleges," 1936, folder 11, box 127, Rosenwald Fund Papers; "Program in Rural Education," 1935, box 1, series , Department of Negro Education, Georgia Departmenr of Archives and History; Jones,./ennes Teacher irl tlie Unitedstates, ; Thomas Jesse Jones to Rossa B. Coole): March 13, 1929, folder 1014a, box 133, h4oto11 Papers; Johnson, Growing Up in the Black Belt, ; Johnson, Akgro Alblic Schools, 'SR. Clyde Minor to Narhan C. Newbold, April 16, 1934, box 1, Special Subject Files, Division of Negro Educarion, Department of Public Insrrucrion, North Carolina Srare Archives; J. \V, Seabrook to Newbold, April 22, 1934, ibid. So poor were rural schools, and so great was the desire for education, that many black families migrated to the ciries so that their children could attend high schools; A~nbrose Caliver, A Bnckgroi~ncl Stnd~ of Negro College Students (Westport, 1970),
19 The Journal of American History June 2000 keeping, and printing. Instead of glorifying "political harangues, opera house speeches, and constitutional amendments," the college proclaimed the need for "prayer, patience, quiet demeanor, and a spirit of good will." Five years later Sam Huston advertised a college course, insisting, "We must have prophets, priests, seers, poets, philosophers, artists, physicians, [and] orators." In Georgia, Rev. Joseph W. Holley persuaded local whites to support the Albany Bible and Manual Training Institute, founded in 1903, by promising to turn out well-trained domestic servants and efficient farm laborers. By 1927 Holley's school was a state-supported college with a three-year liberal arts program. Even the exemplars of "industrial education," Hampton Institute and Tuskegee - Institute, added college-level - courses in the 1920s. Southern state education officials actually encouraged the raising - of academic standards by setting higher qualifications forteachers.3f Even in the state-funded colleges of the South, black administrators retained a large degree of control over the curriculum. As Kenneth R. Warlick discovered when he studied North Carolina, most college presidents were moderates rather than conservatives and forthrightly insisted that blacks should receive exactly the same kind of education as whites. F. D. Bluford, for example, consistently favored the liberal arts, retained Latin and Greek in the face of white carping, and transformed North Carolina A&T into the state's fourth-largest college and one of the best black colleges in the nation. "Conformity and conservatism... proved difficult to guarantee," Warlick concluded, even when whites controlled the purse strings.*o Black teachers used organization and research, not just flattery and dissembling, to press the case for equal opportunity. The Journal of Negro Education and the Quarterly Journal of Higher Education for Negroes, both established in the 1930s, documented disparities between black and white schools, pushed for higher standards, and sponsored conferences where teachers could engage in political debate, hearing and interrogating the likes of W. E. B. Du Bois, Walter White, and Ralph J. Bunche. In addition to their state associations, black teachers formed several national associations, with different constituencies but overlapping memberships, that amplified their collective voice. The most important, the American Teachers Association, cultivated the philanthropic foundations, criticized racism in textbooks and Hollywood films, promoted the teaching of Negro history, and sought recognition from the National Education Association. The Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools for Negroes worked to have black schools accredited by the white education associations, asking that black schools be rated on exactly the same basis as white institutions. *' '"Anderson, Educiltioiz of Blacks ii~ the South, 108-9, ; Satn Husron College, Bulletiiz, Jan. 19, 1908 (microfilm: reel 132), General Education Board Early Southern Programs: Texas (Perry-Casraneda Library, University of Texas, Austin); Sam Huston College, Weekly Bulletin, July 18, 1913, ibid;jackson Davis, "Sam Husron College," Nov. 2, 1916, ibid.;williatns to Jatnes E. Cregg, Jan. 24, 1919, Willian~s Papers; Moron ro Williams, May 27, 1919, ibid.;cregg to graduates of Hampton Institute, June 10, 1920, ibid;williatns ro G. S. Dickerson, July 8, 1920, ibid.; George P. Phenix to Williatns, Dec. 14, 1925, ibid.; W. T. B. Willian~s, "Is Tuskegee Jusr Another College?" Joi~i.iznIof Educiltioizal Sociology, 7 (1933), 'o Kenneth R. Warlick, "Practical Educarion and the Negro College in Norrh Carolina, " (Ph.D. diss., University of Norrh Carolina, 1980), " In 1904 black reachers formed the National Association of Negro Teachers, rena~ned rhe National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools in 1907 and rhe American Teachers Association in A parallel organiza-
20 Black Teachers in the Jim Crow South 83 The growth of black higher education-the number of black college students increased from 12,000 in 1928 to 37,000 in constituted one of the major achievements of black teachers. Although students still chafed under Victorian codes of conduct, the very frequency of student strikes from the 1900s to the 1940s suggests that the black colleges, far from being tyrannies, were safe environments where young people could challenge constituted authority. If colleges were hardly the "models of democracy" that the Morehouse College sociologist Walter Chivers called for, they were oases of freedom compared to the surrounding society. Inside the classrooms, students and professors discussed politics, economics, sociology, history, and literature. (Chivers, who taught Martin Luther King Jr., even offered a course titled "Karl Marx and the Negro.") In both private and public colleges, students could hear visiting speakers such as James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, Kelly Miller, Walter White, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Black colleges fostered the Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC), which held its 1942 conference on the campus of Tuskegee Institute. Fred Patterson, Tuskegee's president, served as an adviser to the SNYC-during its lifetime ( , one of the most important and most radical civil rights organi~ations.~' Through the Negro history movement, initiated by Carter G. Woodson, teachers directly addressed the position of black people in America. In some states and cities, Negro history was added to the school curriculum. During Negro History Week in New Orleans, for example, children in grades one through eleven read poems by black authors, heard stories about black heroes, learned about Louisiana's free people of color, and considered the current economic status of Negroes. Even in its most diluted form, Negro history encouraged children to celebrate black achievements and promoted racial consciousness. When Angela Davis attended Birmingham's Carrie A. Tuggle elementary school, "Black identity was thrust upon us." She learned about Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman; she thrilled to the words of James Weldon Johnson's "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the "Negro National tion of colored parent-teacher associations appeared shortly thereafter. The preside~lrs of black stare colleges began meeting in 1901; in 1923 they formed rhe Xssociarion of Negro Land-Grant Colleges. Seven years later rhe Association of Colleges for Negro Yourh made its debut (renamed the Associarion of Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1934) saw rhe organization of rhe National Conference of Srare Teachers Associarions. See Thelma D. Perry, History of the Anlericavi Teachers Association (Washington, 1975), 42; Woolfolk, Pmirie View, ; Leland Stanford Cozarr, A Histoy of the Associatio~ of Colleges and Secoudaij~ Schools (Charlorre, 1965), 2-7; and Melanie Carrer, "From Jim Crow ro Inclusion: An Historical Analysis of the Associarion of Colleges and Secondary Schools for Negroes" (Ph.D. diss., Ohio State University, 1996). In one or two southern cities, notably New Orleans, teachers formed unions affiliated wirh the American Federarion of Teachers. *'Doug McAdatn, Political Process mzd the Developnzeizt of Blach Insnrgeizcy, (Chicago, 1982), 93, 102; Wendell Grant ~Morgan, "A Survey of the Social Science Offerings in Negro Colleges, ," Qllniterb Keuiew of Higher Education amoizg Aregroes, 2 (1936), ; John A. Hardin, Fzh Yean of Segregation: Black Higher Edz~cation iiz Kentzlchj~ (Lexington, Ky., 1997), 52; Neil R. MclMillen, Darh/ourne~~: Blach Mississippians iiz the Age ofjz'nl Crozu (Urbana, 1990), 100; Leedell W. Neyland and John \V. Riley, The Histog) of Florida Agricultrlial and Mechanical Uniurrsiq (Gainesville, 1963), 142; Johnerra Richards, "The Southern Negro Yourh Congress: A Histor)." (Ph.D. diss., University of Cincinnari, 1987), 17-32, 40-41, 49-56, , Walter Chivers was, according to David J. Carrow, Ing's "favorite sociology professor"; see David J. Garro~i~, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther Kiv~g, J,:, arld the Southern Ci3ristian Leadership Coi+rence, (New York, 1986),
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