Historical Backdrop

  • Vida L. Avery
Part of the Philanthropy and Education book series (PHILAED)


To engage in a serious discussion of race in America, one must begin not with the problems of black people but with the flaws of American society—flaws rooted in historic inequalities and long-standing cultural stereotypes.1 That slave traders and owners brought blacks by force to the United States, used them as slaves, particularly in the South, dehumanized and devalued them, and viewed them as chattel is one axis in the examination of flaws in American society. This group of facts alone marked the essential difference of blacks from any other racial group in the United States. Slavery, however, was just the beginning of the cycle of flaws.


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  1. 2.
    John D. Rockefeller Sr., for example, founded the Standard Oil Trust in 1863 and built it up through 1868, the same year as John Hope’s birth, to become the largest oil refinery in the world. In 1870, the same year Georgia became the last Confederate state readmitted to the Union, Rockefeller renamed his trust to Standard Oil Company. By the late 1870s, Rockefeller’s wealth was worth more than “$5 million” and his “Standard Oil stock alone was by then worth $18 million.” Ron Chernow, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (New York: Random House, 1998), 217.Google Scholar
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    Ibid. Stanfield explained that Jim Crow was a “variant of apartheid which emphasized legal and psychological separation of the races; prohibition of interracial marriages, separate health, transportation, and educational facilities; racially defined occupations; highly ritualized racial etiquette in public spheres; and violent treatment and usurpation of the civil rights of racial minorities.” Bennett explained the term Jim Crow had “become a part of the American language by 1838 and was used [derogatorily] as a synonym for Negro—a noun, a verb, and adjective, a ‘comic’ way of life.” Lerone Bennett, Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, 4th ed. (Chicago: Johnson, 1969), 221.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 20, 27. Torrence also indicated that this listing “in view of the usual southern refusal to acknowledge the alliance of colored women and a white man” was strikingly extreme. However, Torrence believed that Newton married Fanny in South Carolina where it was legal. Davis also espoused that mulattos during this time “maintained more than cordial relations with their white benefactors.” Davis, Clashing of the Soul, 8. Lewis asserted that mulattos lived within an enclave and “sometimes lived privileged lives,” however, after the Civil War these mulattos were “treated the same as other blacks not unless they passed for white.” David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868–1919 (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1993), 254.Google Scholar
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  25. 52.
    Davis, Clashing of the Soul, 66. Daniel W. Phillips established Roger Williams University in 1867 as Nashville Institute. Phillips was a white Baptist minister in Nashville and member of the American Baptist Home Missionary Society. Phillips taught black ministers in his home, but the classes outgrew that space. By 1883, the Institute found a permanent location and was incorporated as Roger Williams University. Ibid, 69–70. Roger Williams University no longer exists. Franklin explained while some of the larger philanthropic agencies continued to support black higher education institutions in the twentieth century, the contributions of wealthy philanthropists of the North declined noticeably. Consequently, smaller private institutions either curtailed their programs or closed down altogether (e.g., Walden University and Roger Williams University). Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom, 538. Also, see Edward A. Jones, A Candle in the Dark: A History of Morehouse College (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson, 1967), 76.Google Scholar
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    Edgar G. Epps, in College in Black and White: African American Students in Predominantly White and in Historically Black Public Universities, ed. Walter R. Allen, Edgar G. Epps, and Nesha Z. Haniff, with a foreword by Edgar G. Epps (New York: State University of New York Press, 1991), xiii.Google Scholar
  36. Although, at times, I briefly discuss and mention the ideological differences between providing blacks with either industrial education or classical education, it is not the major focal point here. Many scholars have discussed this in detail. See Anderson, Education of Blacks in the South; Bond, Education of the Negro in American Social Order; Du Bois, “Of the Training of Men,” Souls of Black Folks; Du Bois, “The Talented Tenth,” The Negro Problem, 33–75; Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom; Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois; Robert C. Morris, Reading, Riting, and Reconstruction: The Education of Freedmen in the South, 1861–1870 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976, reprinted 1981);Google Scholar
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  38. and Michael Scott Bieze and Marybeth Gasman, ed., Booker T. Washington Rediscovered (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2012).Google Scholar
  39. 72.
    Holmes, Evolution of the Negro College, 11–15; Dwight Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The Beginning of the Negro College,” Journal of Negro Education 3 (April 1934): 168–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 73.
    Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom, 302–303; Roy E. Finkenbine, “Law, Reconstruction, and African American Education,” in Charity, Philanthropy, and Civility in American History, ed. Lawrence J. Friedman and Mark D. McGarvie (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 162–163, 166.Google Scholar
  41. 74.
    Holmes, Evolution of the Negro College, 11–15; James D. Anderson, “Philanthropic Control over Private Black Higher Education,” in Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism, ed. Robert F. Arnove (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1980), 152; and Anderson, Education of Blacks in the South, 241. Missionary philanthropy consisted of the American Missionary Association, the Freedman’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the American Baptist Home Mission Society, the Freedmen’s Missions of the United Presbyterian Church, the American Church Institute for Negroes of the Protestant Episcopal Church, the United Christian Missionary Society of the Disciples of Christ, and Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament of Pennsylvania of the Roman Catholic Church. Black philanthropy consisted of the African Methodist Episcopal, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion, the Colored Methodist Episcopal Churches, and the Negro Baptist Conventions. Because this book involves Atlanta University (Congregational, later nondenominational), Morehouse College (Baptist), and Spelman College (Baptist), most of the emphasis herein is on the American Missionary Association, the American Baptist Home Mission Society, and the Negro Baptist Conventions. Anderson, “Philanthropic Control over Private Black Higher Education,” 152.Google Scholar
  42. 76.
    Anderson, Education of Blacks in the South, 241. The definition of classical and liberal arts education has changed over time. Generally, liberal education is defined as “the cultivation of the intellect,” according to John Henry Newman, with the object being “intellectual excellence.” John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University, edited and with an introduction by Martin J. Svaglic (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  43. Specifically, in the 1880s, as Anderson explained, New England classical, liberal curriculum entailed different courses on different levels. Elementary levels studied reading, spelling, writing, grammar, diction, history, geography, arithmetic, and music. Normal departments studied Standard English curriculum with additional courses in orthography, map drawing, physiology, algebra and geometry, and theory and practice of teaching. The college curriculum varied slightly among institutions, but the classical course leading to a bachelor’s degree usually required Latin, Greek, mathematics, science, philosophy, and, in a few cases, one modern language. Anderson, Education of Blacks in the South, 28–29. More contemporarily, the purpose of a liberal arts education, as Christie Farnham explained, is “to discipline and furnish the mind, develop character, and enrich life by encouraging future learning.” Christie Anne Farnham, The Education of the Southern Belle: Higher Education and Student Socialization in the Antebellum South (New York: New York University Press, 1994), 69.Google Scholar
  44. 80.
    Ibid. Also see Frederick Rudolph, The American College and University: A History (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia, 1962);Google Scholar
  45. Laurence Veysey, The Emergence of the American University (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965). These histories of higher education in the United States provided not only details about the creation of colleges and universities in this country but also illustrated the lack of access for blacks to matriculate in higher education.Google Scholar
  46. 98.
    Jones, Candle in the Dark, 19. See Benjamin Brawley, History of Morehouse College (College Park, Maryland: McGrath, 1917; reprinted 1970), 14. During a journey from the North back to the South, Coulter had attended the National Theological Institute and University, an institute organized by Edmund Turney.Google Scholar
  47. 101.
    Jones, Candle in the Dark, 37. Jones indicated that the motto for the seminary did not appear in any catalogues until the academic year 1895–1896. In this year, the motto was written in English: “And There Was Light”; whereas, in subsequent catalogues, it appeared in Latin: “Et Facta Est Lux.” Jones, ibid., 64–65. Florence Read explained people endearingly referred to Frank Quarles as “Father Quarles.” His church, Friendship Baptist, was founded three years after emancipation with its first members being former slaves. Moreover, Read asserted, by 1881, Friendship had 1,500 members and by this time, Quarles had become “influential in the educational and civic life as well as in the religious life of Georgia.” Florence M. Read, The Story of Spelman College (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1961), 42.Google Scholar
  48. 103.
    Jones, Candle in the Dark, 45. There were no institution for black females until Spelman was established; Bennett College was established for females after Spelman. Bennett was founded in 1873 as Bennett Seminary. The seminary was chartered in 1889 as a coeducational college and was renamed Bennett College. In 1926, it was reorganized again as a college for women. Levrin Hill, ed., Black American Colleges & Universities: Profiles of Two-Year, Four Year, & Professional Schools, (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, Inc., 1994), 437; Roebuck and Komanduri, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, 65.Google Scholar
  49. 106.
    College History, 2000–2001, Spelman College Bulletin, 5. (Hereafter, designated as SCB). See Yolanda Watson-Moore, Training the Head, the Hand, and the Heart: The Evolution of the Academic Curriculum of Spelman College, (1881–1953) (PhD diss., Georgia State University, 2000), 7–8; Read, Story of Spelman College, 35. New Orleans University and Straight Institute later merged and formed Dillard University.Google Scholar
  50. 117.
    “Atlanta University,” Spelman Messenger, October 1929, SCA; Raymond B. Fosdick, Henry F. Pringle, and Katherine Douglas Pringle, Adventures in Giving: The Story of the General Education Board (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 5; and Fosdick, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., 117–120.Google Scholar

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© Vida L. Avery 2013

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